Inspired in Erie County: Time Spent with Constituents, Small Businesses, Education Leaders & Community Advocates

January 21, 2014

This past weekend, like many over the past year, I was in Erie County to meet with constituents, local businesses, education leaders and community advocates.

On Friday, January 17th, I had the opportunity of touring American Railing Systems, which is a small business in Erie that specializes in the design and production of aluminum railings and stainless steel railings. Coming out of a business incubator in the 1990s, American Railings has been providing locally designed products to architects and construction companies across Pennsylvania and throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. I met with two owners, the office manager and an engineer from the staff. The remaining technical staff is comprised of a professional and skilled labor force of certified welders, machinists, fabricators and assemblers.  Our conversations focused on the importance of education, including career and technical education (CTE) programs, which are critical to ensuring that young people acquire the necessary skills and certification to fill strategic needs, adults seeking new careers have access to training and opportunity, and businesses have access to a qualified and trained workforce.

Later in the day, I stopped in for an interview with WJET TV (Click picture to view interview). The discussion  focused on the National Security Agency’s (NSA) intelligence programs.

I discussed the President’s recent speech on proposed changes to NSA surveillance programs, following the disturbing unveiling of the NSA’s bulk data collection activities, and how more action is needed to ensure Americans’ privacies are protected. I encouraged the President to endorse the USA FREEDOM Act (H.R. 3361), a bill which I cosponsored. The USA FREEDOM Act will put a stop to NSA’s mass data collection and impose stronger oversight and greater transparency to the agency's actions.  We also discussed the recent passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2014, which included $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and an additional $3.5 million for the Department of Interior to combat the spread of Asian Carp.

Friday afternoon, I met with Richard Scaletta, the Superintendent of Schools at General McLane School District. Similar to American Railings, our time together was focused on the importance of educating our kids so they are capable of obtaining the skills to attain good-paying, family sustaining jobs. Superintendent Scaletta also shared with me the ongoing work at General McLane to further integrate career awareness and education across subject matters, and the need for schools in the area to work more closely together on sharing the best practices of similar initiatives.    

I also took the opportunity to highlight a bill that I have introduced, the "Education for Tomorrow’s Jobs Act,” which recently passed the House as part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The measure will allow new flexibility for school districts to integrate academic and technical instruction, and encourage the creation of educational partnerships among school districts, institutes of higher education, local industry, and other stakeholders. As a member of the House Education Committee and Co-Chair of the bipartisan Career and Technical Education Caucus, I am deeply involved in CTE programs.  It was extremely helpful to hear specific thoughts and ideas from Superintendent Scaletta.

On Saturday, I had the opportunity to join the People For Life Annual Pro-Life Breakfast, at the Bay front Convention Center, in Erie. What an inspirational crowd of advocates committed to the cause of Life! I discussed how our founders who penned the Declaration of Independence recognized that all are ‘endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,’ and that among these rights the first articulated is a ‘Right to Life’.  Today communities across America continue to live out this principle.

For me, protecting the unborn stems from my heartfelt belief that every child, every human life, has a purpose in this world – and that life is sacred and it must be protected.  It was a distinct honor to join so many Erie residents who share my viewpoint, for this important event.

Pictures: Thompson speaks at the People For Life Annual Pro-Life Breakfast in Erie, Pa.

I met Saturday afternoon with United Way of Erie County, to discuss ongoing efforts to address poverty in the county, including the community-led effort “Erie Together”. It was a pleasure to meet with the leadership and staff of this driven and tremendously committed group.

Click here to view coverage from WICU Erie on the 2014 March for Life.