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Published: 1/15/2005

'Supplier' park progress questioned

BY MARY-BETH McLAUGHLIN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Efforts to assemble 200 acres for use by suppliers to the Jeep Assembly Plant have begun nearly a year after it was first mentioned to city officials, but the progress seems limited.

Bruce Baumhower, president of United Auto Workers Local 12 and a major champion of a park in North Toledo, said yesterday he is confident city officials are getting "development agreements" from property owners within the triangle loosely bound by railroad tracks and bordered by Matzinger Road, Detroit Avenue, Alexis Road, and Enterprise Boulevard.

"I had hoped it would be further advanced by now, but these things take time," he said. "I just hope we are as proactive as areas like Wood County, Oregon, and Bedford Township. This needs to be part of our overall plans for reindustrializing North Toledo."

Several owners of property in the designated area said this week they have been approached by the city, but have not signed agreements and are uncertain what is to happen next.

"I'm excited, but I'm not excited," said Chris Uhl, owner of Ohio Specialties Manufacturing Co. Inc., which owns 25.5 acres on Stickney Avenue. It has three buildings on the land.

"I had a conference call on the matter [more than a month ago] and I was told I'd get an e-mail or a sketch in a couple of days," he said. "I haven't heard anything, so I thought they had dropped it."

Ben Eisbart, executive vice president for OmniSource Corp. of Fort Wayne, Ind., said the agreement offered by the city is for owners to agree to have their properties assembled into one parcel. Toledo could then put in roads and water and sewer lines. The city believes the completed package would be attractive to suppliers who want to locate near the Toledo Jeep plant, which DaimlerChrysler AG is expanding and adding to its vehicle lineup. Three automotive suppliers are building facilities on the Jeep complex as part of the plant's expansion.

Mr. Eisbart, whose firm owns 11 acres, said he has not signed anything, and last talked with the city a month ago.

Bill Carroll, Toledo's economic development director, could not be reached for comment but said through an assistant that he "does have things going on with the supplier park." Mayor Jack Ford said he will discuss the potential supplier park in his State of the City address on Jan. 25.

Assembling the land and preparing it for development quickly is important because Toledo Jeep's parent, DaimlerChrysler, is proceeding with the $2.1 billion plant expansion.

New-model vehicles are to be built starting next year, which means the automaker is lining up suppliers for seats, bumpers, and other parts.

It is easier for an automaker to tell suppliers where they need to locate a factory at the time they hire them, rather than to do so later, experts said.

Mr. Baumhower suggested the idea of a supplier park to area officials a year ago and publicly announced it last summer.

But Toledo officials have not announced any new suppliers in the targeted area, and several are known to be looking for sites in the metro area, including in Michigan.

Lynette Miller, an industrial specialist with CB Richard Ellis Reichle Klein in Maumee, said she represents the owners of 47 acres of land along Stickney in the proposed industrial park that already has utilities. It is for sale at $50,000 an acre.

City officials told her in November they would call for a discussion, but she has heard nothing.

She thinks her client's ready-to-use site will be preferred over land the city is trying to assemble.

Contact Mary-Beth McLaughlin at

mmclaughlin@theblade.com

or 419-724-6199.



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