(MCIC) Minority Community Investment Coalition

Since the mid-1960s, members of the Minority Community Investment Coalition (MCIC) have been working to alleviate the effects of poverty in Erie by offering services to low-income residents. Officially formed in 2016, the MCIC recognizes the need to focus on enhanced collaboration and economic development to improve outcomes for Erie’s most vulnerable populations.

In January 2019, the MCIC acquired Joyce A. Savocchio Opportunity Park, a 20-acre business park located on the Eastside of Erie, PA. Access to the environmentally remediated, vacant land with infrastructure will allow for key development opportunities, including: a multi-use health and wellness center, urban agriculture & aquaponics and a community solar farm. The project seeks to promote economic growth and revitalization through small business development and employment opportunities. Significant tax incentives, including a federal Opportunity Zone designation, are also available. (https://www.erieflagshipopportunityzone.com/)

Key outcomes of the MCIC’s Joyce A. Savocchio Opportunity Park initiative include:

•   Identifying business, industry and real estate opportunities in underserved, urban areas
•   Reduce and eliminate pockets of poverty through prudent investment
•   Identify and utilize untapped resources through innovation
•   Create sustainable growth
•   Focus on green, healthy and equitable development

Leadership Team

Shantel Hilliard

Executive Director
Booker T. Washington Center
1720 Holland Street, Erie, PA 16503
Phone: (814) 453-5744 ext. 225
Email: shilliard@btwcenter.org

Shantel Hilliard was born in Erie, Pennsylvania and attended Cathedral Preparatory High school. He earned a B.S. in Business Administration with a concentration in management from Mercyhurst University. He returned to Mercyhurst University and enrolled in a Post Baccalaureate program where he earned a Human Resource Certificate. Shantel also earned an MBA with a specialization in Public Administration from the University of Phoenix.

He is the Executive Director of the Booker T. Washington Center, where he has worked since 2003. Shantel has a passion for working with individuals who need guidance and structure in their lives. He also enjoys educating and serves as an instructor at Mercyhurst University, where he teaches Business and Sociology courses. He is dedicated to mentoring and helping people realize their dreams and potential.

As an active and committed member of the Erie community, Shantel serves on multiple Board; including Erie Rise leadership Academy, Erie County Human Relations Commission and the Erie Water Authority. He is committed to making the Erie community a better place for all residents. Above all, Shantel is committed to his family, including his wife and two beautiful children.


James C. Sherrod

Executive Director
Bayfront NATO/Martin Luther King, Jr. Center
312 Chestnut Street, Erie, PA 16507
Phone: (814) 459-2761 ext. 222
Email: jsherrod@mlkcentererie.org

James C. Sherrod is the Executive Director of Bayfront NATO Inc./Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Center where he has served in this capacity since 2008. Sherrod received his bachelor’s degree in Education from Mercyhurst University. He is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. James currently serves on several community committee’s including Strengthening Police and Community Partnerships (SPCP), The Peoples Supper Core Team, The Flagship Opportunity Zone Advisory Committee and is a Founding member of the Minority Community Investment Coalition and serves on Our West Bayfront. James has enjoyed working within the social services field for nearly thirty years

Gary Horton

Executive Director
Urban Erie Community Development Corporation
2046 East 19th Street, Erie, PA 16510
Phone: (814) 899-3904
Email: ghorton@uecdc.org

As the founder and CEO of the Urban Erie Community Development Corporation (UECDC) and current President of the NAACP branch in Erie, Gary Horton is a passionate advocate for building vibrant communities by helping people to remove barriers to self-sufficiency. Horton is a co-founder of the Minority Community Investment Coalition as well as the neighborhood improvement group Eastside Grassroots Coalition. He also currently serves on the Erie Neighborhood Growth Partnership board and the Governor’s Advisory Board for Environmental Justice.

Since graduating from Cheyney University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor’s degree in Social and Behavioral Sciences and a minor in Political Science, Gary has given more than 30 years to public service. In addition to holding positions in the mayor’s office, the governor’s office and the federal Department of Health Education and Welfare, he also was elected to two terms as a School Board Director.

The largest constituent group served by UECDC at the Reverend E. F. Smith Quality of Life Learning Center is New Americans – resettled refugees and immigrants. In addition to youth leadership development and other programs, the center offers GED, ESL, workforce development, and job placement for adults living in some of the lowest income census tracts in Erie. For this work, Horton was given the Minority Advocate Award by the US Small Business Administration in 2003.

One of his proudest accomplishments, Horton has led Erie’s Walking in Black History trip since 1996. This 5-day, experiential learning tour from Erie to significant African American cultural and historical sites in Alabama, Georgia and Washington, DC is celebrating 28 years in 2020. Horton is a Strong Vincent grad, born and raised in Erie and is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Psi. He enjoys spending time with his siblings, his daughter and her husband and his three grandsons.

Key Partner: 

Eastside Grassroots Coalition

Purpose The Eastside Grassroots Coalition is a collaborative effort between the Urban Erie Community Development Corporation (UECDC) and the House of Mercy. The goal of the EGC is to engage residents, community organizations, and businesses to revitalize the Buffalo Road Corridor and surrounding neighborhoods creating a prosperous and thriving community.

EGC Strategic Focus

1) Neighborhood Improvements
2) Savocchio Park
3) Youth
4) Health
5) Fund Development
6) Organizational Structure

Community Partners & Stakeholders

Department of Community & Economic Development
Curtze Food Service
UPMC Health Plan
Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM)
Martin Luther King, Jr. Center
Booker T. Washington Center
Urban Erie Community Development Corporation
Greater Erie Economic Development Corporation
Erie School District
Governor’s Advisory Board for Environmental Justice
Congressman Mike Kelly
Scott Turner
Erie County Government
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP)
Knox Law Firm
Environmental Remediation & Recovery
Attorney Matthew Wolford, Esq.

Erie Community Foundation
Mayor Joe Schember & City of Erie
Mayor Joyce Savocchio
Housing Authority of the City of Erie
Sr. Michele Schroeck & House of Mercy
Eastside Grassroots Coalition
Erie Regional Chamber & Growth Partnership
Department of Community & Economic Development
Attorney Craig Zonna, Esq.
Attorney John Melaragno, Esq.
Solar Revolutions
Integrated Agriculture Systems, Inc. (INTAG)
Veronica Rexford, Urban Erie Community Development Corporation
Dr. Amy Cuzzola-Kern
Abigail Lechner, Human Capital Associates