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Published: Tuesday, 3/22/2005

Businesses near Toledo targeted by Virginians

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

When it comes to tourism, Virginia is for lovers. But that state would love to have new business from Ohio and Michigan.

The southern coastal state, lowering the job-hunting gauntlet not unlike other states, plans to have representatives visit the region in two weeks to follow up on pitches the Virginia Economic Development Partnership made to businesses.

Virginia, the state's marketing agent says in a letter, has "the best pool of quality labor in the Southeast" and other benefits, including a 6 percent corporate income tax that hasn't increased since 1972.

Such potential corporate raids are a concern to northwest Ohio, and they highlight the need for local economic development officials to routinely call on local businesses to help retain them, said Eileen Granata, interim chief operating officer of Toledo's Regional Growth Partnership.

"It's something I'm always glad to know and sorry to hear," she said. "It just reinforces we have to make sure to step up our own efforts to talk to the local businesses here."

A spokesman for the Virginia economic development agency confirmed yesterday that officials there have approached companies in Ohio and Michigan and plan to visit the first week of April, but she declined to discuss details.

It is unclear how many or what types of businesses received Virginia's attention, or what kind of response the letters have received. One letter to a local company touted Virginia's ability to help get investment capital through both state financing authorities and venture capitalists, property tax exemptions, and 5 percent combined state and local taxes on sales and use.

Economic development officials frequently swing through other states and try to woo companies, said site selection consultant Robert M. Ady, president of Ady International Co. in Mount Prospect, Ill.

"It isn't that uncommon," he said.

Although Virginia isn't as well known as Michigan, Florida, and North Carolina for economic development tactics, it's not surprising the state is targeting Ohio firms, a state spokesman said. Lately, companies, if they do move, tend to go south or west, said Bill Teets, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Development.

"It happens," he said of efforts to entice Ohio companies. "We can't sit here and worry about it."

Instead, state officials try to assess whether they should incorporate strategies from other states into their own attempts, he added.

Both state and local economic development officials readily admit they, too, have visited companies elsewhere to sell the benefits of locating here.

Ohio, however, is studying sectors with potential for growth in the next 10 to 15 years and identifying companies within those industries, not targeting specific geographic areas, Mr. Teets said.

The Regional Growth Partnership also concentrates on certain types of businesses with growth potential, Ms. Granata said. Some local companies, meanwhile, contact the partnership if other states have approached them, although she had not heard about Virginia's efforts, she said.

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at:

jmckinnon@theblade.com

or 419-724-6087.



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