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Published: Wednesday, 10/1/2003

Study on development puts budget on hold

Next year's budget for Toledo's Regional Growth Partnership, which normally would be drafted by now, is on hold because of a major study about how the area economic development efforts ought to proceed and how they should be funded.

Officials of the growth partnership said yesterday they are confident the group will be funded at or near last year's level, although the agency faces more budget pressures because it recently took under its wing the Regional Technology Alliance and business incubator programs for northwest Ohio.

Directors of the partnership were told yesterday that the $125,000 study by Hammer, Siler, George Associates, of Silver Spring, Md., may not be completed until late November and the agency's traditional funding sources are awaiting the study report before committing money for next year.

The study is looking into the roles played by area development agencies, and possible duplication of effort, plus funding alternatives.

The partnership's strategic planning committee was told yesterday the group needs to become less dependent on tax money furnished by its main backer, the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority.

In recent years, the port authority has contributed $1.35 million annually to the growth partnership; the Toledo Area Chamber of Commerce has paid $365,000 a year, followed by Associated General Contractors of Northwest Ohio, with $350,000 annually, and the Toledo Edison unit of FirstEnergy Corp., $50,000.

Several growth partnership directors who also serve on the port board said the port likely will come through with the money but can't commit until the study results are known.

Developer Tom Schlachter, who is on both boards, said, “This board probably ought to be looking at other funding sources. ... [But] I don't think you can look for the rug to be pulled from under your feet.”

The partnership board hopes to have enough preliminary information from the consultant by the time it holds its Oct. 20 retreat to come up with ideas and priorities for funding and direction next year.

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