Innovation District announces million-dollar deals

EID CEO Karl Sanchack shares latest developments.

As the Erie Innovation District (EID) marks its one-year anniversary today, the strategy set forth by its partners to reimagine the future of downtown Erie is delivering unheard-of results.

From deploying technology to launch a Secure Smart City™ pilot project to welcoming nine high-tech startups to the inaugural Secure Erie Accelerator (SEA), EID President and CEO Karl Sanchack is eager to reveal what’s next.

He did just that on Wednesday, Sept. 26, at 6 p.m. in Blasco Library during the SEA’s graduation or, as it’s known in the industry, “Demo Day.” Representatives of all nine companies gave brief presentations on their progress during the 10-week accelerator. The event was free and open to the public, which packed the Hirt Auditorium.

Sanchack promised three big announcements during the course of the evening, saving the 2019 outlook until last.

For starters, he said, five of the nine startups have decided to put down roots in Erie, opening the door to attract more investors, create jobs, and bring additional spillover benefits to the broader Erie economy.

“Working with Silicon Valley think-tank Singularity University, we received over 100 applicants from more than 36 countries and we did our best to pick the companies we felt most confident in achieving success in Erie, companies that could help our city further innovate and thrive; and companies we could help do the same,” Sanchack said. “To have a majority of them elect to stay is practically unheard of.”  

Further, he noted, in little over two months since the accelerator companies began their work in Erie, they have garnered additional capital investments and new business revenue from inside and outside of Erie worth more than $2.4 million, an amount that is expected to grow with time.

In addition, Sanchack said although no commitments have been made, Erie Insurance has expressed interest in exploring opportunities with accelerator graduates, reflecting the energy and enthusiasm for Erie’s emerging entrepreneurial community.

Finally, a focal point of the EID’s efforts this past year has been partnering with Quantela to deploy a Secure Smart City™ pilot in the city, a test case to learn about the challenges and opportunities of establishing a digital infrastructure. The project has enabled the city to harness technology and convey selected city services in a secure, efficient and cost-effective connected environment. As a result, the city is equipped with new LED lighting on State Street from 6th to 12th streets and new Wi-Fi and video surveillance capabilities in Perry Square.

“Now, thanks to our community’s obvious commitment to this concept and to the enormous success of our inaugural accelerator, Quantela, as the lead in a consortium, has announced its readiness to commit between $5 million and $7 million in private funds toward the continued expansion of Erie’s Smart City pilot,” Sanchack said.

He said the next phase will follow a detailed business plan and due-diligence study for an expansion. It will initially target downtown opportunity zones, but with room to grow. It will be open to other partners and entities interested in Erie’s progress


In September 2016, with support from an Erie Community Foundation $4 million Shaping Tomorrow grant, Mercyhurst University and corporate partners Erie Insurance, McManis & Monsalve Associates and Velocity Network, Inc., began development of the Erie Innovation District to revitalize the region’s economy. The partners intend to execute joint projects related to the high-demand fields of safety and security, focused particularly on cyber security, data science and intelligence analysis, where their skills, combined with those of additional corporate and university partners, will create a powerful business alliance and serve as a catalyst for economic growth.