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Published: 10/31/2004

Loan jump in Wood County

By MARY-BETH McLAUGHLIN

BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Although the number of mortgages recorded by the county government is down substantially for the July-through-September period this year compared with last, the total value jumped to $1.1 billion.

"We've already had a lot of residential growth, which is followed by retail growth, and now commercial growth," said Wade Gottschalk, associate director of the Wood County Economic Development Commission.

"Business has definitely picked up. There's been a big pickup on possible industrial projects."

Nearly 30 mortgages with values of at least $1 million were recorded in the third quarter in Wood County, which is south of Lucas County. Many of the largest loans involved corporations based elsewhere that were refinancing their portfolios or were using local properties as collateral for lines of credit.

For example, the largest mortgage recorded last quarter was for $500 million and involved the Deshler center owned by United Agri Products Inc. that distributes seed, chemicals, and other farm products. The local property is part of the Colorado company's line of credit that used its 350 locations as assets.

For the July-September period, the county recorder's office logged 2,580 mortgages with a total valuation of $1.1 billion, compared with 4,158 worth $868 million for the period last year. That quarter also had several large deals that involved companies restructuring their entire financial portfolios.

For the year through last Monday, 8,381 mortgages worth $3.1 billion were recorded, a total that is down by more than 4,000 loans but up $100 million in value from last year.

Among other top loans recorded for the late-summer period were a mortgage for $1.75 million for the purchase of Woodville Mall in Northwood by California investors; a $2 million loan for farm land in Plain Township, west of Bowling Green, for a housing development; and several million dollars in loans for homes and lots in pricey enclaves such as the Sanctuary in Perrysburg.

Michael Rose, executive vice president for mortgages for SkyBank, said "a bright spot" in Wood County is the continuing pace of housing construction across the county, including the Perrysburg and Bowling Green markets as well as smaller communities like Elmore.

"With construction come sales and people moving, and the refinancing activity is still very good," he said. "And the commercial market is good there. It all goes hand in hand."

"The low interest rates last year played a huge role in the number of mortgages, with people both buying and refinancing, " said Sue Kinder, Wood County recorder, adding that she is seeing more commercial activity this year than last.

For all of last year, the office handled 14,336 mortgages, up nearly 10 percent from the year before, and total value lent was $3.7 billion.

By comparison, Lucas County recorded 8,293 mortgages worth $1.7 billion for the July-September period this year, and 25,149 mortgages worth $11.7 billion for the first nine months this year.

Couple the mortgage activity with some recent high-profile projects, including the opening last week of the Town Center at Levis Commons in Perrysburg, and there's a growing optimism among local economic development officials and real estate experts.

The presence in the county of I-75 and the Ohio Turnpike provides good transportation access for businesses, which helps development, officials said.

Available land along State Rte. 795, less than a mile from the intersection of I-75 and the turnpike in Rossford, costs roughly $50,000 an acre, but that's half the price it would be in the Cleveland area, making Wood County attractive, said Mr. Gottschalk, of the county economic development unit.

Stephen Welly, president of Rudolph/Libbe Properties Inc. in Sylvania Township, said his company's three industrial and business parks in Wood County have had attracted increased interest.

"Activity has picked up from a year ago," he said. "And the investment market is as hot as it's been."

Tracy Business Park, a 110-acre parcel the company owns along Tracy Road in Lake Township has had multiple inquiries from big-box retail chains, he added, and tenants in the Cedar Business Center and Commerce Park in Perrysburg are in the early planning stages for expansions.

Ed Schulte, vice president of business development for Toledo's Regional Growth Partnership, said interest has increased among businesses thinking of locating or expanding in Wood.

"Northern Wood County is, in essence, part of urban Toledo but it has more space for development without necessitating redevelopment," he said.

"The southern part of the county is more agricultural-related and Bowling Green is a community in and of itself that has developed quite an industrial base by itself."

Contact Mary-Beth McLaughlin at: mmclaughlin@theblade.com

or 419-724-6199.



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