Frequently emphasized as we move to develop our community college is its needs to serve current enterprises and opportunities in our area. Thus far, potential academic programs identified are manufacturing, health care, insurance and tourism. That’s fine, but let’s look beyond those to identify unique areas meriting support in Erie County and the surrounding area. One jumps out. We are the largest grape growing region (30,000 acres) east of the Rocky Mountains. Yet there is no viticulture/fermentation academic program at the community college level in Pennsylvania to aid its wine makers. Such programs currently exist in Ohio and the Finger Lakes region, but are costly to out of state students.
The Pennsylvania wine industry was born in Erie County 50 years ago and it grows more grapes than the other state’s 66 counties combined and is currently the only agricultural product growth area in the state. Under the leadership of people like Doug Moorhead, Nick Mobilia and Bob Mazza, the area has garnered national attention for the quality of its offerings and the number of area wineries has grown to over 20.
In my opinion, we have a win-win opportunity here to create an academic program to support community opportunities and our state. Industry support and academic resources currently exist, let’s give it serious consideration.
North East, PA