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Published: Thursday, 2/21/2008

Block Communications chairman speaks in Fremont on turnaround

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Allan Block Allan Block
FRASER / BLADE Enlarge

FREMONT If Dubai, Singapore, and China can turn their economies around and become successes, so can Fremont, Sandusky County, and northwest Ohio.

It takes only four steps but they cannot be approached lightly, said Allan Block, chairman of Block Communications Inc., which owns The Blade.

The keynote speaker last night at the annual meeting of the Sandusky County Economic Development Corp., Mr. Block discussed How to Launch an Economic Turnaround.

The first step is to admit the area has problems, but not everyone is willing to accept that, he said. Sandusky County accepts and understands this, so you re one step ahead of Toledo. Toledo s mayor, Carty Finkbeiner, can t admit that his city has problems, he added.

After accepting and addressing the problems, then think big, Mr. Block said.

In 1959, few would have thought Dubai would become the modern, powerful country it is, he said. Fremont, Ohio, is bigger today than Dubai in 1959. Today [Dubai] is one of the great boom centers of the world, the company leader said. They broke out.

Singapore in 1959 was a malaria-infested backwater smaller in size than Sandusky County, lacking in natural resources and fractured by religious and racial strife, Mr. Block said. Today it s a great financial center of the world, he added. And China has rejected its Communist ideology and in many ways, they re doing better at capitalism than we are, he said.

A third step is to realize that investment drives the economy and growth, Mr. Block explained. Sacrifices may have to be made to get investment. You make it up with the growth.

Finally, success needs to be promoted, maybe even in a way that is shocking, he said.

For example, he asked, what if on Labor Day, 80,000 union members rallied to a message of investment for the Toledo economy? That would be likely to attract national attention and catch the eyes of executives who make investment decisions, he added.

During his talk, Mr. Block frequently spoke of the problems his company s subsidiary, The Blade, had during 2006 and 2007 in settling labor contracts with its newspaper unions. During the 14-month dispute, some unions were locked out. A contract settlement was reached last year.

Any breakout turnaround in a place like Toledo or Fremont requires organized labor to be part of that team, he said.

Contact Jon Chavez at: jchavez@theblade.com or 419-724-6128.



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