Mayoral candidate Carty Finkbeiner said yesterday that if elected he would make a proposed Toledo area research and technology corridor a high priority in his administration.
Mr. Finkbeiner made the announcement during a news conference on the front lawn of University Hall at the University of Toledo, whose president is among the leaders of the corridor initiative.
The proposal is to create a 10-square-mile area encompassing UT and the Medical University of Ohio to spur research and technology-related manufacturing.
Mr. Finkbeiner also focused on proposals for a series of passenger rail lines that would also extend to Bowling Green State University and Owens Community College, and would convey students, researchers, and entrepreneurs. He said he believes about three-quarters of the needed rail line is already in place.
"The mayor's job is to get the muscle - mental, financial, moral - of the financial and civic community behind this initiative," Mr. Finkbeiner said.
"We've been doing a lot of what he is talking about," Mayor Jack Ford said in a telephone interview later. The incumbent candidate said his administration has been working with UT and MUO in support of the initiative and has also met with U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) and officials of the Toledo Area Metropolitan Council of Governments.
Mayor Ford said the total cost of the corridor package as proposed, including the people mover system, would be about $60 million. While the city has some community improvement funds it could put on the table to assist, he said the city has spent millions upgrading its information technology system and "we don't have anything to put millions upon millions in over a period of years."
Meanwhile, Mr. Finkbeiner's chief fund-raiser has taken a leave of absence from his paid UT consulting job promoting the technology corridor project.
Pat Nicholson, a former member of Toledo's Regional Growth Partnership and the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, was hired in December, 2004, to help raise money for the project and to recruit an executive director. He was being paid an hourly rate up to $5,000 a month with money from the University of Toledo Foundation.
Mr. Finkbeiner said Mr. Nicholson stepped aside recently.
"Pat just did that I think within the last few days because he didn't wish anyone to criticize the university for being partisan in this mayor's race," Mr. Finkbeiner said.
He said taking Mr. Nicholson off task for the four weeks remaining before the mayoral election would not cause a significant delay in his work for UT. Mr. Finkbeiner is challenging Mayor Jack Ford in the Nov. 8 balloting. He said the corridor group is on the verge of hiring an executive director.
The location of the news conference caused a minor dust-up. Jeanne Hartig, UT's executive director of communications, asked Mr. Finkbeiner's campaign workers to remove about a half-dozen "Carty Gets Results" signs from the university lawn, but allowed the event to go forward. She said the university should have been notified, given Mr. Johnson's high-profile involvement in the corridor idea.
Toledo City Council passed a resolution endorsing the corridor proposal on Sept. 7, 2004, at Mr. Johnson's request.
Mr. Johnson has said linking the corridor with a "people mover" would increase collaboration and help attract investors, researchers, and manufacturers.
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