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Published: 8/11/2011 - Updated: 2 years ago

Chrysler deal was months in the making

Governments worked together; details on incentives uncertain

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF
Ohio governors John Kasich, left, and Ted Strickland. Ohio governors John Kasich, left, and Ted Strickland.
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COLUMBUS -- Negotiations with Chrysler Group LLC over the future of its Toledo Assembly complex had been in the works for many months.

Officials in Columbus and Toledo have been working quietly to develop incentives for the plant, eager to bring in new jobs and strengthen ties with a major employer. The full scope of the deal is not yet finalized, but what is clear is that many layers of government worked together to pitch in.

Rob Nichols, spokesman for Gov. John Kasich, declined to provide details of any incentive package Ohio has offered to Chrysler, saying the package is not locked in yet and still could change.

"The governor and the Ohio Department of Development are continuing to work with Chrysler to secure a deal to further strengthen the company's significant presence in Toledo and to ensure its continued, long-term success in Ohio," Mr. Nichols said.

On his second day in office in January, Mr. Kasich met with the Detroit Three automakers during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Mr. Kasich later characterized what he heard from the auto executives as "sobering" and "disturbing" in terms of Ohio's competitiveness.

At that time, Chrysler was already predicting that there would be a major announcement concerning the Toledo plant in the months ahead.

When contacted by The Blade, Mr. Kasich's predecessor, former Gov. Ted Strickland, said he could not confirm that any deal with Chrysler has been struck, but said talks had been going on for "many, many months." He said he was not aware of any specific concessions Chrysler was seeking.

"I think it is location [and] the history of the plant they have there, which is ranked at the top of all of their facilities in terms of productivity," Mr. Strickland said. "Obviously, they sensed a huge desire on the part of the community to see jobs added.

"But the overarching issue is the survival of the industry, the survival of the company," he said. "Not to sound too political here, but Barack Obama and our friends in Congress who valued the American auto industry and were willing to take strong action should be applauded here. This would not be happening if the federal intervention had not taken place and the auto industry had not been given a chance to reorganize itself to become viable for the future. It's as simple as that."

Details of the city's incentives with Chrysler were unavailable Wednesday night, but Mayor Mike Bell has said they were similar to what has been offered to the plant in the past.

While state officials were hesitant to reveal details of negotiations, local officials said they've been asked to approve tax abatements for the plant expansion.

The Jeep plant lies in both the Toledo Public Schools and Washington Local school districts. Both were asked to consent to 15-year, 50 percent property tax abatements for the plant expansion, according to district officials.

The total value of the abatement would be about $37,000 a year from TPS. Washington Local Treasurer Jeffery Fouke said the amounts were preliminary. He did not know an exact value for his district's requested abatement.

School boards for both districts must approve the abatements. The TPS finance committee is set to discuss the abatement request Thursday, while the Washington Local school board should vote on the request next week.

Staff writers Nolan Rosenkrans and Larry P. Vellequette contributed to this report.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com, or 614-221-0496.



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