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Published: Saturday, 6/16/2007

Ripple effects of Skyway construction helped boost area economy

A group of workers seals the final segments of the bridge together in December, 2006. Linda Bowyer, an associate professor of finance at the University of Toledo, says the nearly $98 million in wages and benefits paid on the project produced benefits in Toledo and surrounding counties in the form of a spending spree. A group of workers seals the final segments of the bridge together in December, 2006. Linda Bowyer, an associate professor of finance at the University of Toledo, says the nearly $98 million in wages and benefits paid on the project produced benefits in Toledo and surrounding counties in the form of a spending spree.
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The construction of the Veterans Glass City Skyway was an economic boon to the region.

The nearly five-year-old project meant that scores of laborers and skilled tradesmen received millions of dollars in pay as well as health and pension benefits.

At its peak, the construction project employed nearly 400 people. As many as 300 worked at the casting yard a mile away on Front Street.

The project also equated into a payday for businesses in the region as many of the construction workers, who sometimes put in 12-hour days during seven-day work weeks, used the income to buy cars, houses, and other products.

Those purchases would have generated additional jobs and income for salesman at auto dealers and an assortment of skilled workers in the home-building industry, spurring other spending throughout the region.

Linda Bowyer, an associate professor of finance at the University of Toledo, said the nearly $98 million in wages and benefits paid on the $220 million project rippled throughout Toledo to surrounding counties in a spending spree.

"This type of project generates multiple effects. Obviously, anytime you are buying locally you are putting money into the local economy," she said.

When completed, the cable-stayed, precast segmental concrete bridge will carry six lanes of I-280 across the Maumee River in Toledo and replace the Craig Memorial Bridge, a drawbridge that was completed in 1957.

Andrea Voogd, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Transportation s district office in Bowling Green, said nearly $190 million of the $220 million project was spent on materials and equipment and money to pay laborers and skilled tradesmen who are members of more than a dozen local unions.

Ironworkers, cement finishers, carpenters, painters, electricians, and heavy-equipment operators were among the construction trades involved in the project. Their time on the bridge work totaled more than 2.3 million hours.

"This has been a huge economic impact for us. It was a great project for us all the way around," said Jack Juhacz, president and business agent for Ironworkers Local 55.

Ron Rothenbuhler, executive regional director of the Ohio and Vicinity Regional Council of Carpenters, said that as many as 100 carpenters and 20 millwrights were working in various aspects of the construction at one time.

The carpenters took home about $20 million in wages from January, 2002, through the end of this month, and the millwrights received about $1 million over the same period.

Jeffers Crane Service Inc. was among the scores of local companies that contractors utilized in the project. Butch Baker, general manager of the suburban Toledo company, said an investment was made to purchase additional cranes and aerial lifts in anticipation of the project.

"I can safely say it has helped us grow and expanded opportunities for employment during the duration of the project," Mr. Baker said.

Over its course, the project was a boon to the city of Toledo and surrounding communities as they received more than $2.2 million in taxes on project workers income.

The taxes that went into the coffers of local governments were used to pay for police, fire, and other services, as well as teachers for those who live in school districts that assess income taxes on residents.

Though hard to quantify, the money spent by the workers also benefited the region in generating thousands of dollars in sales tax.

"We know that those hard-earned wages were used to buy things like toasters, refrigerators, and the cars and trucks that they use to drive to work," Lucas County Commissioner Peter Gerken said.



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