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Published: Saturday, 7/17/2004

Jackson's faith in Toledo

OFTEN when professional athletes ponder their lives after the roar of the crowd subsides, they choose a niche connected to their profession. Not Toledo's NBA star Jimmy Jackson. He's into business ventures right here in his hometown, and Toledo is better for it.

Of course, Mr. Jackson isn't ready to hang up his sneakers yet. The Houston Rockets sharpshooter signed a three-year contract last fall for $7.3 million. And he could, if he chose, invest his money in bigger cities with brighter lights.

Instead, Mr. Jackson continues to demonstrate his faith in Toledo by making significant investments here. Neither coaching nor the job of a sports commentator seems to interest the 33-year-old. He's doing exactly what minority community spokesmen ask of minorities who obtain wealth: invest in poor neighborhoods and depressed areas.

Downtown Toledo is not the lackluster metro center that it was a decade ago, but it's a long way from the thriving city center it could be, and Mr. Jackson has become a frontline player in downtown development.

No development plan has yet been embraced for the old Toledo Edison Steam Plant, but Mr. Jackson has one, and he's still interested in the place.

Clearly, the risks involved in a downtown venture don't frighten him. He certainly took note of downtown's drawbacks when he purchased the old Boardroom on Huron Street and turned it into Jackson's Lounge and Grill. Like other restaurateurs, he laments that the area is practically a ghost town on weekends. But he knows what he's doing: He has an interest in five restaurants in Dallas and Denver.

He's also a partner in the recently opened Car Spa, at Dorr Street and Upton Avenue, another area of the city badly in need of development. And Mr. Jackson's Adaris Group, Ltd., a soil and ground testing and construction firm, shows his knack for focusing on a profession with few minorities.

For a guy who makes huge sums playing basketball, Jim Jackson's commitment to his hometown is, well, nothin' but net.



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