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Published: Friday, 4/22/2005

Private funding may keep RGP afloat for five years

The Regional Growth Partnership in Toledo, which will have no public funding after mid-year, is close to getting enough private backing to last for five years, business and civic leaders were told last night.

James Hoffman, president of KeyBank in the Toledo area and chairman of the fund-raising campaign, said $7 million has been raised from businesses, hospitals, and associations in the last three months.

The goal is to raise $8 million to $10 million for the jobs-creation agency for an 11-county northwest Ohio territory.

"We're pretty confident," said Mr. Hoffman, speaking to a gathering at SSOE Inc. downtown, arranged by the Toledo Area Chamber of Commerce, one of the founders of the 11-year-old growth partnership. "We're off to a good start."

Until now, the growth partnership has gotten about half of its funding from a Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority levy. It provided $1.35 million annually. But Toledo and Lucas County officials announced the creation of a joint economic-development agency that will get future levy funds.

Most of the private funds needed to provide $1.6 million to $2 million annually for the agency, Mr. Hoffman said, has been guaranteed by dozens of firms and organizations, each pledging $100,000 or more.

Also targeted are about 100 firms that will be asked for $10,000 to $50,000, he said. Up to 125 small businesses will be asked for contributions of at least $1,000 a year, officials said, which should mean all the funding needed should be raised by mid-year.

William Brennan, chairman of the growth partnership, said the group's goal for the next five years is to create 8,000 jobs and secure capital investment of at least $1 billion.

Mr. Brennan, president of Associated General Contractors of Northwest Ohio, said the growth partnership hopes to hire a chief executive officer soon. A search consulting firm the group hired has narrowed a field of applicants to four or five to fill the top job vacated by Don Jakeway, who left in late 2003 to head the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

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