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Published: Tuesday, 8/24/2004

Candidates spar over development in Lucas County

Gerken Gerken
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Pete Gerken, standing front of a rehabilitated brownfield in East Toledo, lashed out at Harry Barlos yesterday, accusing him of not being aggressive enough on economic development.

Mr. Barlos, a Lucas County commissioner whose job Mr. Gerken wants, called Mr. Gerken's claims disingenuous and said his opponent hasn't tackled those issue during his eight years on Toledo City Council.

Mr. Gerken has focused on job creation in his run for commissioner and has held several press conferences that have revolved around economic development.

"I think the difference you're going to see between myself and my opponent is that I don't wait. I try to act," Mr. Gerken said.

Mr. Gerken, a Democratic at-large councilman, named three sites that he thinks offer economic development possibilities. The first is the location of a former Chevron refinery that encompasses about 200 acres in East Toledo and Oregon near the intersection of Front Street and Millard Avenue. He said it offered plenty of land with access to a deep-water port, railroad, and the highway system.

The second site referenced by Mr. Gerken would be an automotive supplier park near the DaimlerChrysler AG Jeep Assembly plant. He said 230 acres near Stickney Avenue and Matzinger Road could be developed for businesses that could supply parts for Jeep.

Mr. Gerken also was critical of the county for not doing more to develop Westwinds Industrial Park, where about 140 acres remain to be developed off Airport Highway near Toledo Express Airport. The county developed the park in the 1960s with the help of the federal government.

Mr. Barlos, a Democrat running as an independent, said the county is actively recruiting companies to Westwinds. He said the county is competing for an automotive-related firm that would create 195 jobs paying $16 an hour at Westwinds.

Mr. Barlos also pointed to the county's $1 million contribution toward the Manitowoc Marine Group's renovations to the shipyard of the Toledo Ship repair Co., which is expected to lead to fabrication for ships. The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, which leases the shipyard to Manitowoc, is trying to assemble $7.5 million in federal, state, and local contributions for the $10 million renovation project. Mr. Barlos said Toledo committed to spending $1.5 million on the project but hasn't made any payments yet.

"What has he done for the constituency that has placed him in office?" Mr. Barlos asked. "What has he done about the eyesore we call Southwyck? And until last week, the [Toledo] Edison [steam] plant had been sitting there for years. I don't think he made any move for development of that project."



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