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Published: Friday, 3/25/2005

Economic duties outlined for new development panel

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Lucas County Improvement Corp. rarely gets mentioned in the news, and rarely gets a full turnout of its 28 board members.

"If we get seven or eight people, we're lucky," joked Jeannie Hylant, vice president of the low-profile board.

Yesterday, the LCIC's board room was full as members got their first look at the plan pushed by Toledo Mayor Jack Ford and Lucas County Commissioner Peter Gerken to transform the agency into a full-time economic development agency.

Created in 1964, the LCIC authorizes U.S. Small Business Administration loans. Last year, the agency closed on six loans, totaling $1.4 million.

Under the plan advanced by Toledo and Lucas County, the LCIC would become the lead engine of economic development.

The president, Charles Duck of Waterville, said the new board potentially will handle more than $100 million worth of bonds, loans, and other programs to assist development annually.

Under the plan put before the directors, a revamped LCIC would have an executive director, a full-time staff, and a budget of about $1.7 million.

Yesterday's meeting was to show the proposed changes to the LCIC's board. A vote is expected to be held next month. The meeting date has not been set.

The number of directors of the new LCIC board depends on how many political subdivisions join, staff attorney Steven Reinbolt said.

The plan is for the LCIC to have six directors each from the city of Toledo and Lucas County, and one from each additional political subdivision that designates the LCIC as its economic development agency.

The directors would elect an executive committee that would be made up of one Lucas County commissioner, the mayor of Toledo, one other mayor in Lucas County, one township trustee, and three business representatives. The executive committee chairman would come from the private representatives.

LCIC member Frederick Fisher and county Commissioner Maggie Thurber questioned the dominance on the new board by political appointees.

"I think it should be a majority of business [representatives] on the executive committee," Ms. Thurber said. "I think it would be better received in the suburban communities."

Mr. Gerken said government officials should have oversight on the use of government resources, such as low-interest loans, bonds, street and utility construction, and land-use regulations.

He said the private sector's role is to generate growth.

"We want them to be able to come to one place in Lucas County to get that support. That one place is the LCIC," Mr. Gerken said.

Mr. Gerken said all the townships, villages, and cities in Lucas County have a right to join the LCIC and get a seat on the board.

Mr. Gerken harkened back to the American Revolution for inspiration.

"There was distrust among the 13 colonies when this nation formed, and look what became of that," he said.

Mr. Gerken said if the new agency is approved in April, the new directors would be empaneled and a full-time executive director could be appointed by mid-year.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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