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Published: Tuesday, 8/28/2012 - Updated: 1 year ago

Libbey to stay in downtown through 2027

New lease deal includes state grants, city tax breaks

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Libbey will stay at Toledo Edison Plaza. Officials on Tuesday said the firm had offers from other regions and had looked elsewhere. Libbey will stay at Toledo Edison Plaza. Officials on Tuesday said the firm had offers from other regions and had looked elsewhere.
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Glassware and tableware maker Libbey Inc., a fixture in Toledo for nearly 125 years, announced Tuesday that it has signed a new lease to remain in the city for an additional 15 years at its Toledo Edison Plaza headquarters at 300 Madison Ave.

At a midmorning announcement in the downtown building's lobby, Chief Executive Officer Stephanie Streeter said the company headquarters will stay put despite offers from other cities and states. Libbey is being aided by $1.2 million in grants from the state of Ohio and a tax abatement from the city of Toledo.

In announcing its new lease with building owner Toledo Edison, which is a subsidiary of Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp., Ms. Streeter noted how in 1888 the city of Toledo offered company founder Edward Drummond Libbey four acres for a factory and 50 lots for workers to build homes if he would move his business to northwest Ohio from New England.

"Similar to the cooperation extended to our company back in 1888, the city and state have been very supportive of Libbey," Ms. Streeter said.

Additionally, Libbey said it signed new five-year leases with the city for its Libbey Glass Factory Outlet store at the Erie Street Market and with CAD Properties for its Libbey Glass Showroom at 335 N. St. Clair St.

An economic development grant of $1 million through the state's Jobs- Ohio program will enable Libbey to renovate its corporate headquarters. That will allow the company to provide its 200 employees with "an efficient, collaborative, and contemporary work environment," the CEO said. A $200,000 grant from the state will be used by the company to provide additional work force training.

"In addition to continuing our commitment to downtown Toledo, this new lease supports Libbey's recently announced strategic plan. It's aimed at reducing costs and improving productivity to strengthen our company," Ms. Streeter said. "The redesigned office space will enable us to slightly consolidate our footprint and combined with the rent reduction under the new lease will allow us to operate a more efficient corporate headquarters."

The new strategic plan, announced July 18, attempts to strengthen and expand Libbey's core business by focusing on regional instead of global leadership. In the process, the company eliminated 5 percent of its global managerial, professional, and administrative work force.

Libbey occupies four floors in the 17-story Edison Plaza building, which was built in 1975.

The company plans to use the $1 million grant to renovate its office space so that it will need just two floors and half of a third.

"The configuration of our offices will change dramatically," Ms. Streeter said. "We're going from a very traditional office-centric design to one that's very open, collaborative, and contemporary that I think our employees will really enjoy."

The new configuration will promote better employee communications, she added. "It will be a very open environment, with very few conference rooms, not many offices, and a lot of light," Ms. Streeter said. "The whole idea is collaboration, the sharing of ideas, innovation, and that kind of environment."

Libbey's new lease, which included a rent reduction, expires in November, 2027. Its existing 15-year lease was to expire on Nov. 30.

Toledo Mayor Michael Bell, who spoke at the announcement, called Libbey "one of our best business in Toledo" and thanked the company for its recommitment to the downtown. "This is a great day for the city of Toledo and is really a true example of what can occur when people work together," Mr. Bell said.

Libbey officials said the company has an ongoing tax abatement from the city, and the abatement was extended as part of the deal.

Ms. Streeter said negotiations on a new lease had been going on for a year, and that despite the fact Libbey will celebrate 125 years in Toledo in 2013, the glassware maker was serious about moving elsewhere if a deal could not be worked out.

"We wanted to make sure we did our diligence, and we did look outside of Toledo. That took time," she said. "We looked throughout the Midwest and certainly outside of it. We tried to stay within a reasonable commute for our people, but we were definitely looking outside northwest Ohio."

Sources involved in the negotiations said the company had an offer from Michigan to move north.

"We were serious lookers, and we're just really thrilled that we were able to work with JobsOhio, and the city, and FirstEnergy and put a really compelling business proposition together," Ms. Streeter said. "I have a great team, and I got all the credit, but they did all the work as it usually is."

The CEO said Libbey "would have had to move" had a deal not be worked out. "It would have been a very difficult business decision. But we're a public company, and we're forced to make those kind of decisions," she said.

Contact Jon Chavez at: jchavez@theblade.com or 419-724-6128.



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