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Published: Friday, 1/23/2004

Chamber reports it doubled aid to small firms in 03

The Toledo Area Chamber of Commerce last year more than doubled the small-business development assistance it gave, providing more than 10,800 consulting hours for 12,380 people.

That, the chamber said, helped spur an economic impact of nearly $270 million.

The trade group also helped nearly 600 companies pool resources for worker s compensation, helping them save $6 million last year.

Those were some of last year s highlights cited by James Murray, regional president for FirstEnergy Corp., during yesterday s annual meeting of the chamber. He was succeeded as chamber chairman this year by Jay Hall, president and chief executive of National City Bank in the Toledo area.

About 450 people attended meeting at Toledo s Gladieux Meadows, where political pollster John Zogby was the keynote speaker.

Ohio will be important as the election nears because both President Bush and the eventual Democratic candidate will visit as they vie for the small-yet-significant 5 million to 7 million voters nationwide not yet in either camp, said the president and chief executive of Zogby International of Utica, N.Y.

About half of Americans approve of the job President Bush is doing, Mr. Zogby said. That is the approval rate at which he started his presidency to which he continues to return from successively lower approval bounces, Mr. Zogby said. Meanwhile, no matter who the Democratic candidate is, he will automatically start with a 45 percent following, he said.

“It is indeed a 50-50 race, and this is a 50-50 president,” said Mr. Zogby. The speaker is the featured guest this weekend on The Editors television program. The show, taped yesterday, will be broadcast at 8:30 p.m. tonight on WGTE-TV, Channel 30, and at 12:30 p.m. Sunday on WBGU-TV, Channel 27.

Among those honored at yesterday s meeting was Karen Fraker, senior vice president of Fifth Third Bank (Northwestern Ohio), who received the Athena Award, given annually to a female business or civic leader.

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