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Published: Wednesday, 5/7/2014 - Updated: 2 months ago

TOLEDO-LUCAS COUNTY PORT AUTHORITY

Airline economics blamed for woes; diversity discussed

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Creating a separate airport authority to operate Toledo’s two city-owned airports would probably change little regarding Toledo Express Airport’s struggle to attract new airline service, but it likely would cost taxpayers a lot more, Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority leaders said Tuesday during a strategic-planning meeting.

“I don’t think it’s the structure of how we’re running the airport that is the problem — it’s the economics of the airline industry,” said John Szuch, one of the port authority’s 13 directors, all of whom attended the discussion at the Toledo Club.

Colleague G. Opie Rollison, meanwhile, said a key problem with proposals to privatize Toledo Express is the unanswered question of what happens if the airport remains a money-loser in private hands, just as it has been in recent years under public management.

“Where are you going to get the money if it goes south?” Mr. Rollison said.

The future of the airport’s management was one of three issues that dominated discussion during the 3½-hour session.

That subject followed renewal of discussion about the port authority’s role in the Toledo area’s economic-development efforts.

Earlier in the meeting, the board dived into debate about the adequacy of efforts to promote racial diversity at the port authority and in Toledo in general.

The diversity discussion was sparked by a profanity-spiced speech by port director Bernard “Pete” Culp, who protested whites’ predominance on the agency’s payroll — 26 out of 30 employees, with three blacks and one Latino — and said the agency also should do more to ensure that the 14 percent Disadvantaged Business Enterprise share of port authority contracts goes to firms that are actually run by women or minorities.

“I don’t see a person here who watches out for the 14 percent, even. I want to know what’s going on,” Mr. Culp said, adding later, “The same things we’re hearing today, we’ve heard for 25 years: ‘We can’t find any [qualified minority candidates].’ ”

Andrea Price, who like Mr. Culp is black, said that during her recently ended time as chief executive of Mercy Health System, no open position could be filled there unless the candidate pool included at least one minority, which at times required an active search rather than a simple review of submitted resumes.

“What are we actually doing to seek people of color?” she asked.

Mr. Culp argued that an easy first step would be to hire someone to monitor the firms’ participating in port authority projects as minority-owned or women-owned to ensure they comply with the spirit, as well as the letter, of that law.

While taking exception to Mr. Culp’s “presentation style,” University of Toledo President Lloyd Jacobs agreed that the port authority “needs to recommit to diversity.”

He later suggested that the agency be at the fore of developing “a large, breakthrough strategy on diversity.”

Contact David Patch at: dpatch@theblade.com or 419-724-6094.



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