The final financial puzzle piece for modernizing the BAX Global cargo terminal at Toledo Express Airport fell into place Friday with announcement of a $3.5 million federal grant for the project.
The $7.3 million modernization will enhance the hub's usefulness for handling international shipments and help ensure BAX's presence at Toledo Express as the air-cargo industry endures a major economic shakeout, local officials said during a news conference at One Maritime Plaza, home to the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority.
"This continues our efforts to advance ourselves as a hub for intermodal transportation … and global distribution," U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) said.
"It's a perfect example of collaboration," said Michael Stolarczyk, the port authority's president, who called the BAX facility "the premier international air cargo facility in the country - not just in Ohio, but in the whole country."
Toledo became eligible last year for federal Economic Development Administration funding, from which the $3.5 million will be issued, because of Lucas County's rising unemployment rate.
"These funds are key to putting the region's economy back on track and will help strengthen northwest Ohio now and in years to come," U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) said in a statement. He wasn't at the news conference.
"We're going to turn this economy around," pledged Ford Weber, president of the Lucas County Improvement Corp., which was the official applicant for the grant.
The modernization will include enlarging the cargo-sorting capacity inside the 300,000-square-foot terminal, installing larger doors to accommodate wide-body aircraft commonly used in international service, adding a cross-dock terminal to facilitate freight transfer between planes and trucks, and adding new customs inspection facilities.
BAX's lease on the port authority-owned facility expires in 2013, with two five-year options after that.
Although the port president said, "We don't have any further details on an extension of that lease," he believes the cargo carrier's $1 million contribution to the modernization project shows its commitment to Toledo.
The $2.8 million balance comes in the form of a state loan for which repayment may be canceled if BAX maintains current employment at the cargo hub for at least three years.
The port authority's board of directors agreed in July to guarantee the loan on BAX's behalf, because BAX officials were unwilling to do so.
The cargo hub employs 849 people, including 276 full-time and 573 part-time positions, while the construction there is expected to create temporary jobs for about 360.
Port officials said plans have been drafted and they should be able to proceed apace with advertising for construction bids. Construction is expected to take 12 to 18 months.
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