Working with businesses that would like to locate along the new and improved U.S. 24 is at the top of the checklist for a new regional port authority in northwest Ohio.
On Thursday, Jerry Arkebauer, a former executive with the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, was named executive director of the Regional Port Authority of Northwest Ohio, a coordinated effort among Defiance, Fulton, Henry, and Paulding counties.
Mr. Arkebauer said helping businesses locate along U.S. 24, which is being widened to four lanes from Toledo to Fort Wayne, Ind., is one of two key goals for him.
"The other thing that is important to do is remember who you already have, and in each of those counties there is a large company," he said. "Whether it's Campbell Soup or Sauder or General Motors, there is a major employer base in each of those counties now, and it's incumbent upon us to let them know the port authority is there and how the port authority may help them in the future."
Tim Small, president of the Defiance Area
Chamber of Commerce and chairman of the regional port authority, said the agency was formed early this year and that led to the dissolution of the fledgling Defiance County Port Authority. Mr. Small said shortly after the Defiance County agency was formed in September, representatives attended a statewide port authority meeting at which they were inspired to talk their neighbors into joining with them.
"We decided as a single county stuck in northwest Ohio that we really need more clout," he said. "Based on that, we felt a coalition of counties in the northwest portion of Ohio would really be awesome."
Officials are hoping their timing is right for the new port authority, which by law may finance, own, and lease land, buildings, and equipment for projects that "enhance, foster, aid, provide or promote transportation, economic development, housing, recreation, educational, governmental operations, culture, or research" within its jurisdiction.
U.S. 24 runs through three of the four counties.
"There's opportunity for us to become a player right now, but there's also so much opportunity to design our future," Mr. Small said. "We don't want planning to just happen. We want to be instrumental in designing that plan. Now we have the tools to give to economic development to assist them in attracting new business and attracting the type of business that really makes northwest Ohio unique."
Mr. Arkebauer, who retired in 2006 as vice president of finance and strategic initiatives for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, also works as president of the Blanchard Valley Port Authority, which was created by the city of Findlay and Hancock County late last year.
In addition to hiring Mr. Arkebauer on Thursday, the 12-member regional port authority board signed a five-year contract with bond counsel Climaco, Lefkowitz, Peca, Wilcox & Garofoli Co. of Cleveland, which will cover Mr. Arkebauer's expenses and ultimately recoup those through fees generated by future projects.
Mr. Small said each of the participating counties contributed $10,000 toward the start-up of the port authority.
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