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Monday, July 28, 2014
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Published: Sunday, 4/6/2014 - Updated: 3 months ago

COMMENTARY

Treeces’ plan for airport amounted to no plan at all

BY KEITH C. BURRIS
COLUMNIST FOR THE BLADE

When, some months ago, Dock Douglas Treece and his two sons Dock David and Benjamin Treece, of the local Treece Investment Advisory Group, announced they hoped to acquire management rights to Toledo Express Airport, most people in Toledo, leaders and observers, thought, “Hey, let them try.”

Let’s see what they’ve got.

Put a business plan on the table.

And present some expertise: Here’s how we would do it better than the port authority.

Regional airports have a tough way in today’s airline and freight industry.

If someone has a better idea, let’s hear it.

Granted, some people, as a matter of philosophy, oppose the private management of public assets by private, for-profit entities.

But that did not seem to be the overwhelming attitude in this case.

The Treeces faced mostly open minds.

That is not the case today.

The door has been closed. Slammed shut, actually. And specifically on the Treeces.

They have no one to blame but themselves.

The mayor, the leading Republican on Toledo City Council, and everyone else who has been paying attention, eventually came to the same conclusion — that there was, substantially, no plan.

So the mayor held a press conference to make sure everyone knew the door was forever closed, adding that there were ramifications from the feds.

And that caused the Treeces to finally release their “plan” — a 28-page paper the mayor found lacking in expertise or experience and characterized as “... a gallant attempt to create a document based on creative wordsmanship.”

In short: All garnish. No beef.

The Treeces merely assert that they can run the airport for less money than the port does.

They merely assert that they can do economic development better than the port.

They merely assert that they can mange something they have never managed before.

They seem to not understand the difference between assertion and evidence.

That’s a disease of our age. But it’s no excuse.

It is a rule in sports, politics, cards, love, and business: If you want to win the game, or even play it, you have to put something on the table. The Treeces never did. They didn't make a case.

They thought hype was substance and pressure a business plan. And now they say they have been ill and rudely treated when all they had to do was say how they would better manage things and save and raise more money than the port. As time went on, it became clear that they had not done their homework and were never going to do it. Maybe they didn’t know how.

The Treeces say they spent $80,000 on a study of the airport. The mayor rightly says they should ask for their money back.

The Treeces also say their experience here shows that Toledo is closed to new ideas and hostile to business. Both contentions are false. It is not the idea of innovation that has been rejected here, but the Treeces themselves.

The Treeces began this process with good will and squandered it unilaterally. The mayor, council, and even members of the port authority board are all open to creative and innovative ideas for the management of the airport. If the Treeces had any such ideas, they kept them to themselves. They offered only self-promotion and umbrage. That they are walking away with nothing seems a just result to me.

Keith C. Burris is a columnist for The Blade.

Contact him at: kburris@theblade.com or 419-724-6266.



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