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Published: Wednesday, 5/10/2006

Finkbeiner gets critical letter from Costco

BY CHRISTOPHER D. KIRKPATRICK
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Tired of negative public comments by Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, the chairman of Costco sent him a critical letter last week that said the mayor made inaccurate statements about the firm and did not understand the store's benefits to the community.

The wholesale giant is trying to open a store at a redeveloped Westgate Village Shopping Center. The mayor, since taking office this year, has tried to change or block the deal because of concerns about location, design, wages, and tax incentives.

"Not only are suggestions that Costco is a greedy corporate citizen wrong and unfair, the truth is that Costco has acted as a facilitator of a redevelopment project that will be mutually beneficial for Costco and the citizens of Toledo," Costco Chairman Jeff Brotman wrote in the letter. "Your statements implying that Costco will be reaping up to $10 million in benefits are wholly inaccurate."

Mr. Brotman pointed out that any economic incentives the retailer got were plowed back into demolition and site work preparation at Westgate, a former brownfield.

"Let's not let misrepresentation of the facts cause further debate. Should you ever have any questions about Costco or our efforts in Toledo, do not hesitate to contact me," Mr. Brotman wrote.

The mayor sent a written reply Monday that took issue with the Costco chief's letter: "I respectfully disagree with the comments you made in your letter regarding Costco not receiving economic benefits ... Clearly Costco is going to receive many economic benefits from this deal."

Mr. Finkbeiner also "challenged" Mr. Brotman to hire a completely Toledo staff at the new store. In his efforts to block or alter the Costco plan, Mr. Finkbeiner first said construction plans approved under Mayor Jack Ford's administration were not sufficiently pedestrian friendly. The mayor hired an attorney and sought independent redrawings of the Westgate blueprint, which had already been approved by the city Plan Commission.

After a compromise on design, the mayor again tried to block the Costco deal because he said its lowest-paid, entry-level employees did not earn a living wage under city ordinance. In corporate retail circles, Costco is considered among the top in wage and benefits.



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