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Published: Thursday, 3/24/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Kasich lauds Docks sale, plans area road project

Toledo deal counteracts f light of U.S. jobs, he says

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Governor Kasich says attracting foreign capital is vital to Ohio jobs and Ohio families. Governor Kasich says attracting foreign capital is vital to Ohio jobs and Ohio families.
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Gov. John Kasich Wednesday night praised the city of Toledo's sale of The Docks entertainment complex to Chinese investors, saying the Dashing Pacific investment in Toledo represented a counterpoint to the flight of American manufacturing jobs to China.

"The ability to attract some foreign capital is vital to Ohio jobs and Ohio families," he said at a news conference before a speech Wednesday night to a Wood County Economic Development Commission banquet at Hilton Garden Inn, Levis Commons, in Perrysburg.

"We have an opportunity to do a major investment with our friends here, and I want to make sure we do it right," he had said minutes earlier, before ducking into a private conference room to meet briefly with the group led by Yuan Xiaohona and with Toledo Mayor Mike Bell after he arrived at the hotel.

"It's fantastic. I feel I'm part of the community now," Ms. Yuan said while waiting to meet the governor. She and others in her delegation are in Toledo this week for meetings with the Bell administration and accompanied the mayor to the banquet Wednesday night after learning of his plan to attend.

The governor's appearance at the banquet concluded a three-stop tour of northwest Ohio that began in midafternoon with a rain-shortened tour of CSX's Northwest Ohio Trans-Shipment Terminal near North Baltimore. During that event, he and Ohio Department of Transportation director Jerry Wray announced that they plan to break ground in about a year on a project to divert State Rt. 18 around North Baltimore so trucks traveling to or from CSX's facility don't congest that village.

The highway rerouting, he said, will be designed and granted permits in just one year, instead of the usual seven for such projects.

At the University of Toledo Lake Erie Center in Oregon, protesters greet Governor Kasich with jeers and chants of ‘Kill the bill,’ a reference to Senate Bill 5, which aims to limit collective-bargaining rights. At the University of Toledo Lake Erie Center in Oregon, protesters greet Governor Kasich with jeers and chants of ‘Kill the bill,’ a reference to Senate Bill 5, which aims to limit collective-bargaining rights.
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In between the two news conferences, he met with fishing industry representatives at a closed-door meeting at the University of Toledo Lake Erie Center in Oregon. While there, 200 to 300 public employees greeted him with jeers and chants of "Kill the bill," a reference to Senate Bill 5, which if adopted would limit collective-bargaining rights for public employees, among other things.

A large contingent of the protesters were from Oregon. Karen Jones, a custodian at Clay High School, said she and the others were there to show their opposition to the proposed legislation.

Brian Gyuras, the band director at Clay, said public employees were worried about losing jobs and benefits but emphasized that Senate Bill 5 would eventually hurt workers in the private sector as well.

"We're here for the people of the state of Ohio. We're here to support all workers, not just those in public employee unions," he said.

During his news conference in Perrysburg, Governor Kasich said the collective-bargaining changes in the bill would give Mayor Bell the ability "to run his city without going bankrupt or raising taxes so high they drive business out of town."

Municipal and county governments "need the ability to manage their costs. If you can't manage your costs, you can't make it," he said, reiterating that when a private-sector worker pays 23 percent of health-care costs but a municipal counterpart pays only 9 percent, that's untenable.

He said after his speech that the economic freedom would leave cities and counties with the ability to set their own spending priorities.

The Blade had reported Wednesday that officials in Seneca County were fearful that cuts in state pass-through aid would hobble their budget sufficiently to put restoration of the 1884 county courthouse in financial peril.

Mr. Kasich said he "did not know the specifics" of that matter but said his administration is "giving a lot of tools" to lower levels of governments.

Governor Kasich, left, meets with, from left, Scott Prephan of North Pacific Connections; Simon Guo, a deal broker between Chinese and U.S. businessmen, and Yuan Xiaohona, a Chinese investor, before his speech to the Wood County Economic Development Commission. Governor Kasich, left, meets with, from left, Scott Prephan of North Pacific Connections; Simon Guo, a deal broker between Chinese and U.S. businessmen, and Yuan Xiaohona, a Chinese investor, before his speech to the Wood County Economic Development Commission.
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He said CSX's "huge investment" in North Baltimore presented "a big deal opportunity" for Ohio because of the vast job-generating potential for transportation and logistics businesses to locate in the surrounding area.

"You see the big cranes out there, I see jobs," he said, referring to five giant container-handling cranes outside the terminal administration building where he spoke after a briefing from railroad officials. "This is good news for the whole region."

Nearly two years in the making, the CSX terminal began handling rail-borne container shipments last month, and Paul Hand, the railroad's Northern Region general manager, said transfers to and from trucks are expected to begin by mid-May.

The terminal will allow containerized freight to be hauled from coastal ports direct to northwest Ohio, then sorted into new trains for destinations all over the region. Mr. Hand said train routes from the terminal reach 56 percent of the United States population.

CSX spent $175 million to build the facility, which Mr. Hand said now employs 250 people. Except for 12 managers brought in from other CSX sites, all were hired locally, he said.

Truck traffic at the terminal is initially forecast to be just a few dozen in and a few dozen out per day, but officials expect that to grow, especially if transportation-related businesses locate nearby.

Mr. Wray said the state was prepared to spend up to $15 million to create a new route for Route 18 around North Baltimore so those trucks would not clog the village.

Four options the department is considering are:

Heading north on Liberty Hi Road and then east on Cygnet Road to reach the I-75 interchange near Cygnet;

Heading south on Liberty Hi and Hancock County Road 139, then following State Rt. 613 east to I-75;

Building a new Route 18 that would curve away from the existing road east of Liberty Hi, belting North Baltimore to the southwest before rejoining its existing route on the village's southern edge,

Or using Liberty Hi only as far as Belmore Road, then upgrading that road to its junction with Route 18 on the village's southern edge.

Mr. Kasich also promoted his idea of leasing the Ohio Turnpike to private investors to provide Ohio with a cash infusion of as much as $3 billion for infrastructure projects.

Among the state's looming needs, he said, is widening I-75 between Perrysburg and Findlay, a need that growing truck traffic from the CSX terminal could accelerate.

While turnpike privatization is not necessarily a prerequisite for such a project, "there's not enough money to go around" to pay for all the state's infrastructure needs and turnpike cash would "put us in a position to guarantee a lot of things."

Such revenue could also provide for dredging the channel in Toledo's Harbor, the governor said, which would enhance opportunities for transferring containerized freight between ships and trains in Toledo.

The appearances marked the governor's second trip to northwest Ohio since he took office in January. While he has visited the Cleveland area 10 times during that same period, he said during his speech that he is a governor for the entire state, not just its three biggest cities, and remarked that his team had been to North Baltimore frequently since January to work on the road-improvement concept there.

Staff writer Carl Ryan contributed to this report.

Contact David Patch at: dpatch@theblade.com or 419-724-6094.



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