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Published: Thursday, 8/5/2004

Gerken details growth plan

BY DALE EMcH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Pouring a box of Alpha-Bits cereal into a bowl to illustrate a complaint about all of the acronym-laden economic development agencies in the region, Pete Gerken spelled out a proposal yesterday for how he would create jobs if elected a Lucas County commissioner.

Mr. Gerken, a Toledo councilman who is running against Harry Barlos, president of the commissioners, proposed the creation of an economic development body that would take the lead in countywide job creation.

Though short on details, the broad outline he unveiled at a news conference calls for an economic development board composed of the mayor of Toledo, a county commissioner, a suburban representative, and a private sector representative supported by the Toledo Area Chamber of Commerce.

"This is what economic development in Lucas County looks like today," Mr. Gerken said, spelling out RGP (the Regional Growth Partnership) and CIC (Community Improvement Corporation) with the letter-shaped cereal. "There's no leadership in this, there's no strategy in this, and there's no accountability. This doesn't generate jobs."

Mr. Gerken, a Democrat who has been on council since 1996, criticized Mr. Barlos, a Democrat running as an Independent, for the loss of 15,000 jobs since becoming commissioner in 1999.

Mr. Barlos countered that as one of three commissioners, there wasn't much he could do to stave off the effects of a long-term recession.

"I guess there are probably 3,000 counties in America and thousands of cities and we've all lost jobs in the last three years," he said. "We've lived through probably the most devastating recession in the last 50 years. To blame one commissioner for the loss of these jobs is politicizing this issue."

Mr. Barlos pointed out that Mr. Gerken was a councilman while those jobs were lost and is serving while Toledo is facing a $14 million deficit next year.

Tina Skeldon Wozniak and Lynn Olman, the candidates for the other commissioners' seat, said they weren't familiar with Mr. Gerken's plan so they couldn't make specific comments about it.

Ms. Wozniak, the Democratic incumbent, said she thinks elected officials in the area have to put more emphasis on economic development in the area.

"There has to be accountability by elected officials in this area of economic development," she said. "It's time to have a model in place to assure taxpayers that their tax dollars are being used to attract businesses to Lucas County."

Mr. Olman, a Republican state representative from Maumee, said he agreed with a finding from a recent consultant's report that said a more coordinated approach needed to be taken toward local economic development.

"Most would agree that we have a fractured approach to economic development in this region," he said.

Contact Dale Emch at:

daleemch@theblade.com

or 419 724-6061.



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