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Published: Saturday, 10/30/2004

Lucas County: Campaign stresses job-creation efforts

BY CHRISTOPHER D. KIRKPATRICK
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Red-and-black billboards featuring happy workers in hard hats implore voters to support the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority levy.

To some Lucas County residents, the phrase on the signs - "Creating Jobs. Together" - might seem more like Greek code than a campaign slogan. It is likely that many county residents do not know the purpose of a port levy except for its effect on their property tax bill.

County voters must decide Tuesday if they will continue to support the 0.4-mill levy, which raises $2.5 million annually to create jobs and to help pay for projects at Toledo Express and Metcalf airports, the Port of Toledo, and the train station, all operated by the port authority. It would last five years.

The authority collects the levy and directs more than half of it - $1.35 million - to a sister agency, the Regional Growth Partnership, which works to attract businesses and create jobs in an 11-county region, including Lucas County.

Eileen Granata, the interim chief operating officer of the Regional Growth Partnership, said her agency organizes development deals and provides information for companies looking to relocate.

Among other projects, the partnership helped with the Jeep expansion announced this year. But port board members acknowledge that providing behind-the-scenes resources and public economic cheerleading can be an intangible service, difficult for some voters and taxpayers to hold in their hands. They realized a new image and political message was needed to win votes.

The Lucas County property tax costs $7.29 a year for the owner of a $100,000 home and $10.93 on a $150,000 home. Only Lucas County property owners pay the levy, which has been a source of some contention from taxpayers upset that the growth partnership and the port have used their funds to locate employers in neighboring counties.

For months, a port levy political committee has been working to deliver the message to voters that levy dollars will now focus more on Lucas County and less on the 11-county region the growth partnership serves.

Deals were struck among the economic development players in the county, including the port authority's board of directors, Toledo's 11-member Community Development Corporation Alliance, and other leaders.

"One of the complaints has been that the money has not been directed to Lucas County residents," said Terry Glazer, president of the 11-member Toledo CDC Alliance. His group had threatened to withhold political support for the levy renewal unless a new formula could be worked out.

Under the revised allocation system, much of future port levy money would go to the growth partnership but would be directed for Lucas County projects. A total of $350,000 would be set aside for grants for neighborhood projects for the city's 11 community development groups and other organizations, which would have to apply and compete for the money.

"The details of how the grants will work we haven't put together," Mr. Glazer said, adding that could be saved for later. "What we have to do first is make sure everyone is on board and then make sure the levy passes."

Contact Christopher D. Kirkpatrick

at: ckirkpatrick@theblade.com

or 419-724-6077.



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