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Published: 7/24/2007

FedEx offered incentive to stay

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
A triple-trailer rig exits the FedEx transfer area on its way to
Chicago. Toledo is trying to retain the carrier and its jobs. A triple-trailer rig exits the FedEx transfer area on its way to Chicago. Toledo is trying to retain the carrier and its jobs.
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The city of Toledo has offered FedEx Ground the right to drive triple-trailer rigs on Reynolds Road in an effort to keep the business in the city.

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, who is on vacation, spoke by telephone with FedEx officials yesterday to check on how valuable the triple-trailer offer would be, his chief of staff, Bob Reinbolt, said.

The increased access for triple-trailer rigs is the city's best effort yet to persuade FedEx to keep its $80 million expansion in Toledo rather than seeking greener pastures in Wood County. The city says it has been working for more than a year on winning the expansion, part of a national FedEx Ground initiative.

A FedEx spokesman has con-firmed that it is searching for a new site of 80 to 100 acres in the greater Toledo area, including possibly in southeast Michigan. Currently the shipper operates a terminal at 650 South Reynolds Rd.

Mr. Reinbolt said allowing a truck tractor to tow three trailers on Reynolds would not create a weight problem but could pose safety concerns. He said he didn't know if new signs or signals would be required.

Triple-trailers are allowed on the Ohio Turnpike, and the Ohio Department of Transportation allows triples on state routes in unincorporated areas within a mile of turnpike interchanges, said David Dysard, deputy director for the Ohio Department of Transportation district office in Bowling Green.

To reach other points, three-trailer sets must be reconfigured into pairs or singles to drive on off-turnpike roads.

He said that as a home-rule city, Toledo can allow the extra long trucks on Reynolds, which is part of U.S. 20 and has an Ohio Turnpike interchange near the city's southwestern corner.

Home rule is a provision of the Ohio Constitution that allows cities to pass their own laws as long as they do not conflict with state laws covering issues considered to be of statewide significance. Federal law restricting truck sizes and weights, which does not allow the creation of new routes for triple-trailer rigs, applies only to interstate highways.

Once expanded, FedEx Ground would operate about 150 trucks a day, most of them in the late night and early morning hours, Mr. Reinbolt said.

The project is important to Toledo because about 600 people work at FedEx, paying the city's 2.25 percent income tax.

The city has offered to provide an adjacent 48-acre parcel, along with other incentives at FedEx's present location, which would create an 80-acre site.

As a secondary offering, the city is also supporting a site assembled by the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority near Swanton adjacent to the turnpike exit at Toledo Express Airport.

Wood County officials and FedEx have been close-mouthed on the likely site in Wood County, but Toledo officials last week received word that the company has settled, at least tentatively, on a Wood County site east of the I-75 exit at Buck Road.

Mayor Finkbeiner last week publicly accused Wood County of "poaching" in Toledo territory.

In addition, the mayor and his staff have accused FedEx real estate agent Bob Mack, who is also a Perrysburg Township trustee, of breaching ethical boundaries when he attended a meeting in the mayor's office last year to discuss FedEx's project without disclosing his role on the township board of trustees.

Mr. Reinbolt said neither he nor the mayor knew that Mr. Mack was a trustee for the township that has become a competitor for the project.

Mr. Mack yesterday said he has been careful to keep his business activities separate from his township responsibilities.

He acknowledged attending a meeting in the mayor's office in February, 2006, but said he did not pass along any information from that meeting to Wood County Economic Development Commission, of which he is a member, or the township.

Mr. Mack is an agent of Signature Associates.

"When I was in the meeting in the mayor's office, I worked in conjunction with another commercial real estate agent who is in fact the FedEx real estate representative who is from out of state and we worked in unison on this project," Mr. Mack said. "When I'm performing my day job I stick to that, and when I'm involved in something in the township I have to be very careful which hat I wear and not commingle."

He said that he disclosed his business relationship with FedEx to the township administrator who informed the other trustees.

Mr. Finkbeiner charged that Wood County should be looking outside the region for new employers rather than attempting to "steal" and "pirate" existing local businesses from another jurisdiction.

Tom Blaha, the executive director of the Wood County Economic Development Commission, said his agency didn't seek out FedEx.

The mayor has said he would refuse to sign off on approving a tax abatement for FedEx to move to Wood County. A site relocation within the state requires approval either by the mayor of the community where the employer currently is located or the lieutenant governor.

Mr. Finkbeiner spoke with Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher on Friday and obtained his assurance that he would not overrule the mayor's opposition, Mr. Reinbolt said.

But Mr. Fisher, who also serves as director of the Ohio Department of Development, in a written statement provided to The Blade did not rule out permitting the incentive.

He said the state prefers to see businesses expand at their current locations. He said that FedEx would have to meet the criteria for allowing tax incentives for businesses moving within the state. "The department will ensure that no incentives are provided where these criteria are not met," he said.

Those incentives include whether the existing site is large enough to accommodate the expansion, whether business considerations justify the move, and whether the existing jurisdiction was given enough warning to make a competing offer.

He said retaining FedEx in Ohio is "extremely important," and "it can be a delicate balance between meeting the needs of businesses and retaining jobs within the state's borders while maintaining the well-being of individual communities."

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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