The Ohio Department of Development grant to Lucas County will provide improved rail, truck, and ship access to a 181-acre property straddling Front Street that the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority bought in May.
"This will mean a lot to Toledo, and it couldn't have come at a better time," said city councilman Mike Collins, whose district includes the former Gulf Oil refinery site.
William Carroll, chairman of the port authority's board of directors, said the grant will allow site preparation to be completed in just two or three years, instead of 10. That could be essential to Toledo's participation in a "short-sea shipping" proposal to move containerized freight through a planned deepwater ocean port in Nova Scotia.
The development department's announcement of its Job Ready Sites grants yesterday included projects in Van Wert and near Sandusky, too.
The Toledo grant was jointly sought by the port authority, the city, the county, the Lucas
County Improvement Corp., Hull & Associates, and Midwest Terminals of Toledo International, Inc., the latter of which is spending $2.4 million of its own.
Midwest Terminals already operates the port authority's International Cargo Dock under contract and holds a long-term lease on the refinery property, which is now known as Ironville Dock.
The port authority in May paid Chevron Corp. $3.4 million for the site, primarily using property-tax revenue for the purchase. With the state grant and Midwest funds now committed, site investment exceeds $10 million.
"This is a great example of how the public and private sectors can come together in our region," Mr. Carroll said.
"Here's an example of what happens when everybody works together - all of us win," agreed Pete Gerken, a Lucas County commissioner.
And Steve Schoeny, director of strategic business investment at the development department, said Midwest Terminals' financial commitment was a major factor in choosing the Toledo application from a field of more than 100 applications for about $46 million in state funds.
"All of the projects that were awarded, you see strong public-private participation," Mr. Schoeny said in a telephone interview. "We need private-sector validation for our investments. We need to see other money in it."
Mr. Schoeny also said the Toledo project involves "a unique site in Toledo's infrastructure" because of its access to rail, water, and highway transportation.
"We don't have enough sites in Ohio with ports and rail to fit the needs of the market," he said.
The grant application included no jobs forecasts, but Mr. Schoeny said that for the Job Ready Sites program, that's not necessary. What is required is that applicants commit to land-use covenants that preclude them from changing horses midstream and building, say, a big retail project.
"This is a speculative program," he said. "We don't know who's going to come in."
Carla Firestone, a port authority spokesman, said the port authority has "soft commitments" from businesses that intend to move onto the site or to nearby land if the Ironville Dock development goes forward. Those firms would bring several hundred jobs to the area if that happens, she said.
The planned site improvements should create "several dozen" construction jobs, Ms. Firestone said.
Among potential businesses to move in is one that assembles wind-generator components.
The construction plans include building a rail loop through the land west of Front Street that would permit direct cargo transfer between ships and trains; clearing of underwater debris, dredging, and dock-face improvements for vessel access, and paving of 19 acres of "lay down area" for cargo handling and storage.
"All of these activities are very capital intensive and need to be done before the site can be developed," said Matt Sapara, LCIC's executive director and director of development for the port authority.
Todd Audet, vice president of operations for Midwest Terminals, added that while developing Ironville Dock could support the "short-sea shipping" concept, that might be pursued by moving bulk-cargo operations from the International Cargo Dock to Ironville so that container traffic could be handled at the existing, downstream location.
Any container operations would need to be on a tight schedule, Mr. Audet said, and the International Cargo Dock has the advantage of being downstream of all railroad bridges on the Maumee, whereas Ironville is upstream of the CSX bridge.
The other grants that the state announced included:
•$5 million to the city of Van Wert to provide water, gas, electric, and rail improvements to a 1,600-acre site for proposed "mega-manufacturing" northeast of town.
•$2.75 million to the city of Sandusky for improvements to 1,274 acres next to the NASA Plum Brook Station, including water and sewer-line construction, gas and electric upgrades, and facility improvements.
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