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Published: Wednesday, 5/19/2010

Report calls Toledo area a 'model' of cooperation

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

The inaugural annual report by the federal task force in charge of revitalizing communities hard hit by the collapse of the automotive industry cites Toledo as a "model of cooperation."

Release of the report yesterday coincided with a daylong conference at the Brookings Institution in Washington that featured several top administration officials and U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) and Rep. John Dingell (D., Dearborn) among its speakers.

The report, which details a variety of grants and assistance allocated to metro Toledo over the last year under federal stimulus and other programs, also commits the Environmental Protection Agency to help pay for an environmental assessment of the former Jeep Parkway plant site.

The 70-acre site on Jeep Parkway, where Chrysler used to produce Jeep Wranglers, is currently owned by OldCarCo, the remnants of the prebankruptcy Chrysler LLC. The massive factory was torn down several years ago after the new assembly plants were constructed a few miles away off Chrysler Drive and Stickney Avenue.

The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority has been negotiating for an extended period with OldCarCo - and Chrysler before that - to purchase the site, but those negotiations have been delayed until a complete environmental assessment of the land is completed.

Joseph DeWolk, a spokesman for the White House Council on

Automotive Communities and Workers, said yesterday that the EPA environmental assessment is under way.

The 54-page report by the White House Council on Automotive Communities and Workers recalls the May, 2009, meeting at Martin Luther King, Jr., Plaza that brought together representatives from local government, labor, and agencies.

Since that meeting, the report said, metro Toledo:

•Received a pair of $200,000 brownfields assessment grants in September from the EPA to assess and characterize brownfield properties and conduct planning activities to revitalize the sites.

•Received $50,000 in "technical assistance" from the EPA to help reuse a former Champion Spark Plug facility for urban agriculture.

•Received a $7.1 million grant from the Department of Justice through its COPS Hiring Recovery program that allowed the city to keep 31 police officers on the street.

•Was awarded $10.15 million in grants by the Department of Housing and Urban Development to help the city stabilize neighborhoods "ravaged by foreclosure."

•Was awarded one of 25 Retrofit Ramp-Up awards of up to $15 million to conduct energy efficiency upgrades across neighborhoods.

•Received a $3.5 million grant through the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority for improvements at Toledo Express Airport from the Economic Development Administration.

•Assisted solar start-up Xunlight Corp. in landing a $34.5 million tax credit from the Department of Energy to aid in the production of the company's lightweight, flexible solar panels.

- Larry P. Vellequette



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