Monday, May 21, 2018
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Chinese group is eyeing area, governor says

Pharmaceutical firm is goal, development group is told


During his talk in Perrysburg, Gov. John Kasich renews his pitch for leasing the turnpike, saying the deal would net about $2.5 billion.

The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
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More investment may be coming to the Toledo area from China, according to Gov. John Kasich.

While speaking about his administration's economic development initiatives in Perrysburg Tuesday, Governor Kasich disclosed an effort by Chinese investors to develop a pharmaceutical business in the Toledo area.

He referred to a Chinese economic delegation sitting with Toledo Mayor Mike Bell for the luncheon meeting of the Northwest Ohio Regional Economic Development Association at the Holiday Inn French Quarter in Perrysburg.

"The mayor just had me meet with a group of Chinese who are thinking about bringing some sort of a pharmaceutical firm. My answer to them is 'Tell us what you need, you need workers' training, we'll get 'em trained. You need land, we'll find you land. You need a little economic help, we'll take a hard look at it,' " Mr. Kasich said.

About 250 people attended the luncheon. The governor's speech included changes he has proposed during his four months on the job that he says are needed to reinvigorate Ohio's economy.

Mayor Bell sat with four men from China who were guests of the Rudolph/Libbe Corp. construction firm. The mayor provided no details of the investors' plans, saying they were conducting their business on the private side and would not need city government involvement.

Phil Rudolph, a vice president of new business for Rudolph/Libbe, said the Chinese delegation has been in the area since the end of last week. Their local contact is Scott Prephan. Mr. Prephan is the Perrysburg developer who introduced Mayor Bell to two other Chinese investors who bought The Docks restaurant complex from the city for $2.1 million and made an offer for the city-owned Marina District, which they later withdrew. Mr. Prephan did not return calls seeking comment.

Mr. Bell is planning a trip to China where he hopes to revive interest in the Marina District by the Chinese investors, who call themselves Dashing Pacific Group.

They withdrew their $3.8 million offer for the 69-acre parcel after some on City Council tried to require the use of union contractors in future site development.

"That is my objective, to see if I can rescue this deal. I'll do everything I can, whatever it takes to bring that back here," Mr. Bell said.

During his speech, Mr. Kasich advocated for his proposal to lease the Ohio Turnpike, saying the deal would net about $2.5 billion, of which $1 billion would go toward infrastructure.

He said such infrastructure projects could include dredging the Toledo harbor and widening I-75.

Among suggested uses for the remaining $1.5 billion include setting up a revolving loan fund for college tuition, with the condition that recipients remain in Ohio.

The governor didn't mention the terms of a proposed deal, but he has talked about 75 years, the same length of time for which Indiana leased its 157-mile toll road to a Spanish-Australian firm for $3.8 billion.

Part of the $3 billion payment for a long-term lease of Ohio's 241-mile toll road would be needed to pay off about $589 million in bonds.

In a follow-up news conference, Mr. Kasich said the issues of maintenance and tolls would be detailed in a contract.

"We just wouldn't go slapping this thing through. We want to meet with people up here and have you tell us what you're concerned about," Mr. Kasich said.

Mr. Kasich took a question from a retired teacher, Marti Bair of Perrysburg, who said budget cuts will hurt early intervention programs that help children with special needs.

"Good teachers are being cut. It truly affects the whole economy of the area," she said.

The governor said Ohio public school funding is too heavily weighted in administration and not enough in the classroom.

He said Senate Bill 5, which restricts the collective bargaining rights of teachers and other public employees, would give school districts more control over resources.

He also said he wants to expand the availability of vouchers and charter schools.

Contract Tom Troy at: or 419-724-6058.

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