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Published: Tuesday, 4/28/2009

$7.5M loan for new gear at port could turn to grant

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Lucas County Improvement Corp. was awarded a $7.5 million state loan Monday for new bulk-material handling equipment at the Port of Toledo - a loan that could become a grant if the project is finished within budget and job-creation targets are met.

Matt Sapara, the agency's executive director, said Midwest Terminals of Toledo International Inc. will build grain silos and conveyor systems at the former Gulf Oil refinery site in East Toledo known as Ironville Dock and owned by the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority.

Mr. Sapara presented the project to the Ohio Department of Development Monday, and the loans - part of Ohio's state job-stimulus program - were announced later in the day.

Release of the funds is subject to approval of the State Controlling Board, which Mr. Sapara said is to meet next week.

The project is expected to cost $10.7 million. Midwest Terminals is committed to contributing $1.6 million, and the port authority plans to apply this week for a $1.6 million grant from the federal Economic Development Administration that would round out its budget, Mr. Sapara said.

The loan is the second state award toward the port authority's plan to convert the former 181-acre refinery site into a waterfront terminal and logistics center.

In November, the development department awarded Lucas County $5 million in Job Ready Sites funds to be spent on wharf improvements, railroad construction, paving, and other upgrades.

LCIC was part of a team of local agencies involved in the previous grant application, and Mr. Sapara, the port authority's former economic development chief, said LCIC was the lead agency for the instant loan application to show the project's broad base of local support.

The grain silos will be used to handle small-volume grain shipments that Midwest Terminals handles at the port authority's International Cargo Docks.

The conveyors will be involved with grain handling too, but also will be suitable for moving other bulk commodities around the terminal, Mr. Sapara said.

The LCIC director said he doesn't consider the plan to create public-sector competition for ADM Countrymark and The Andersons Inc., which operate three large grain terminals farther up the Maumee River.

"This is not competing with them. It complements ADM and The Andersons," Mr. Sapara said. "Midwest has the flexibility to handle anyone. The Andersons has its customers, as does ADM."

A development department announced the grain-handling project is likely to create 16 construction jobs and 40 full-time positions after its completion.

Mr. Sapara said Midwest will have 54 months to complete the project once the controlling board formally releases the loan, and repayment will be forgiven if the project is finished within its budget and the jobs forecast is met.

Last month, the port authority was awarded $21.8 million in federal stimulus funds, including $15 million for upgrading the port-owned Toledo Shipyard and $6.8 million to buy a high-speed crane and container-handling equipment for the existing general-cargo dock.

Contact David Patch at:

dpatch@theblade.com

or 419-724-6094.



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