Mercyhurst University

Erie Innovation District



New CEO announced

The Erie Innovation District announced Sept. 1, 2017, the selection of Karl H. Sanchack as its inaugural president and CEO. Sanchack, currently managing director of AB Innovations LLC, a Virginia-based consulting firm focused on best practices in innovation, has 25 years of technology and innovation management experience from Silicon Valley through the aerospace and defense industries.
Read more here.


What people are saying:

“We envision an innovation district in downtown Erie that will allow us to build a dynamic leadership network and work together with a singular vision focused on growth and prosperity for our community.”

– Michael T. Victor, Mercyhurst University President


"We are incredibly excited to have such a great group of leaders at the table working to make Erie a better place. Our collective investments in the downtown and our Bayfront will help revitalize this great city we all call home."

- Nick Scott, Jr., Vice President, Scott Enterprises


“The vision for this collaboration between the university and three of the most innovative employers in the Erie region will bring together, under one roof, the best and the brightest employees, faculty and students to conduct new research that results in synergies, concepts and ultimately commercially viable ventures that will provide jobs and economic security for the region.”

– Tom Ridge, Ridge Global Founder, former PA Governor and first Secretary of Homeland Security


“Innovation districts have shown that both American and global corporations are interested in being centered in proximity to trained talent. By focusing heavily on the emerging fields of data science and cybersecurity, Erie will be well positioned as a hub for companies to make investments. In fact, as we have seen from the financial services industry and the insurance industry, data science is one of the largest growth areas in the field. Multiple industry CEOs have been quoted as saying that ‘big data is the future of the financial services industry.’”

David Dausey, Mercyhurst University Provost


“Within the next five to seven years, it is easy to envision how Downtown Erie can look and feel entirely different than it is today. This is the first time in my career that I can remember major stakeholders sitting together in the same room with such a great sense of collegiality and talking about our projects collaboratively. It can only bode well for the city.”  

Charles “Boo” Hagerty, Chief Development Officer, Hamot Health Foundation


"We are excited to be part of this effort. This combination of academic research and practical business applications has been shown to be a catalyst for attracting innovative companies and creating the types of jobs that will re-energize Erie's economic growth."

– Marco Monsalve, chief executive,
McManis and Monsalve Associates (from Erie Times-News article)



Contact Us:

David Dausey
Mercyhurst University Provost


Caleb M. Pifer
Vice President - External Relations and Advancement

Community Partners in Action

Downtown Erie joins America’s new innovation landscape

In September 2016, Mercyhurst University received a $4 million grant to lead development of an “Erie Innovation District” in collaboration with corporate partners Erie Insurance, McManis and Monsalve Associates and Velocity Network, Inc. The Shaping Tomorrow grant was awarded by the Erie Community Foundation, Susan Hirt Hagen Fund for Transformational Philanthropy and the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority.


What is an innovation district?

Innovation districts are a relatively new phenomenon intended to reshape cities and promote economic growth. They work by combining the talent from anchor institutions to build partnerships across sectors, transforming cities into innovation hubs that attract new business, funding and investment and, in turn, drive the vitality of a city. “The new model is also physically compact, transit-accessible, and technically wired and offers mixed-use housing, office and retail.” *Source: Brookings Institution


What will be the business focus of Erie’s innovation district?

The partners intend to execute joint projects related to safety and security, specifically in the high-demand fields of data science and cybersecurity, where their combined skills will create a powerful business alliance. The innovation district will also provide opportunities for networking with companies and institutions involved in other disciplines and serve as a catalyst for economic growth.


Who are the organizing partners?


Mercyhurst University

Mercyhurst University, a private Catholic comprehensive university, will engage its nationally renowned Ridge College of Intelligence Studies and Applied Sciences for this project. The Intelligence Studies Department in the Ridge College is the oldest post-secondary intelligence program in the United States, with more than 1,000 alumni working in every major industry sector and 17 agencies of the U.S. federal intelligence community. Currently, the Ridge College enrolls nearly 600 students and administers $12 million in public and private sector grants and contracts. Increasingly, these funded opportunities involve cyber and corporate security projects.


Erie Insurance

Erie Insurance is the Erie region’s only Fortune 500 Company, with a vast network of independent insurance agents who serve more than 4 million insurance customers in 12 states and the District of Columbia. Erie Insurance will collaborate with Mercyhurst to execute joint projects related to cybersecurity and large-scale data analysis. The innovation district will also benefit from a new partnership announced in February 2017: the F.W. Hirt Erie Insurance Risk Management Program at Mercyhurst University, which will educate a growing workforce, create economic opportunities and advance the high-demand field.


Velocity Network Inc.

Velocity Network (VNET) has been serving Erie since 1990, providing information technology (IT) support and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses. This collaboration with VNET will take a twofold approach. First, VNET will provide state-of-the-art, high-speed connectivity and firewall security for the district. This advanced fiber optic-based infrastructure is essential for attracting new companies to relocate or co-locate in the innovation district. Second, VNET will work with partners to innovate and develop new products and software in cybersecurity.


McManis and Monsalve Associates

McManis and Monsalve Associates is a small, veteran-owned, HUB Zone-certified consulting firm that helps organizations improve performance, manage change and mitigate risk. As an integrated group of skilled professionals with diverse career backgrounds in Fortune 1000 companies, the federal government and the U.S. military, McManis and Monsalve Associates works with government, private and nonprofit clients to address organizational challenges and achieve measurable results. McManis and Monsalve will collaborate with partners to identify business opportunities and future business products that mitigate existing and emerging risks associated with the needs of businesses.




What are the goals of the innovation district?

The partners proffer a plan that dovetails with the goals of Erie’s Comprehensive Plan and is designed to serve three critical community needs:

  • Stop brain drain and enhance brain gain.
  • Replace low-wage jobs with family-sustaining jobs.
  • Revitalize downtown Erie.


Where will Erie’s innovation district be situated?

The partners are currently communicating with other key stakeholders in downtown Erie, such as UPMC Hamot, Scott Enterprises and others, to situate in close proximity and drive synergies among this cluster of high-powered assets.


What is the timetable for the innovation district?

The innovation district will be implemented in three broad phases:


Phase I: Development and Implementation (Year 1) — Mercyhurst and its partners will hire a nationally known expert on creating innovation districts and a CEO to ensure the success of the project. At present, the group has engaged DHR International, a global executive search firm, to identify CEO candidates. Moving forward, the university will create the infrastructure with its partners, finalize site selection in downtown Erie, and determine cost estimates for renovations.


Phase II: Expansion and Growth (Years 2-3 ) — This phase will focus on the expansion and growth of the innovation district through the inclusion of additional university and corporate partners and the continued buy-in of community leaders in the public and private sectors. During this phase, the innovation district will apply for 501(c)(3) status en route to becoming a self-sustaining organization.


Phase III: Sustainability (Years 4-5) — This phase will focus on the long-term sustainability of the innovation district beyond year five by concentrating on new products, innovations and industries that can be created in Erie.