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Mayor led group to Ft. Worth to examine transportation

Few in Toledo knew of trip to visit transportation hub

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Mayor Mike Bell talks with Toledo fire Lt. Matt Tabb before a news conference Friday at One Government Center to announce that the city and the union representing its firefighters have reached a tentative agreement on a new contract.

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Toledo Mayor Mike Bell led a delegation of businessmen and city officials to Fort Worth this week, an excursion that passed under the radar of all but the mayor's closest aides.

The mayor did not publicly announce his trip, which he said was aimed primarily at exploring a giant commercial transportation hub in north Texas and speaking with developers and local officials there. A weekly schedule of the mayor's activities gave no indication he was out of town, and councilmen said they knew little or nothing about his trip.

The delegation's main stop was at a planned community and logistical hub in north Fort Worth called AllianceTexas. The project centers on the "Alliance Global Logistics Hub," which includes a major industrial airport, rail lines, intermodal yards, and connecting state and interstate highways, making it a prime location for moving and distributing cargo.

Mayor Bell said a similar hub, or "aerotropolis," would be a good fit for the Toledo area, which also boasts intersecting highways, an airport, and rail lines as well as access to the Great Lakes. He said local discussions about creating such a hub prompted him to visit Fort Worth and speak to its developers, the Hillwood company, to invite them to come to Toledo.

The firm is owned by Henry Ross Perot, Jr., son of former presidential candidate Ross Perot. Mr. Bell said company executives expressed interest in visiting Toledo.

"I wanted to go out and see, what does an aerotropolis look like and what would we need to put something like that in place here," the mayor said.

Mr. Bell also met with top government officials, including the mayor of Dallas, Mike Rawlings, and the mayor of Fort Worth, Betsy Price.

"They met and they talked about economic development," Fort Worth city spokesman Bill Begley said. "I think Toledo and Fort Worth, they've got a lot of things in common."

The AllianceTexas development dates to 1990 and is the outcome of a private-public partnership, Mr. Begley said. So far, $417 million in public funds have been invested in the project, which he said has returned an economic impact of $40 billion for the north Texas region. AllianceTexas is now home to 265 companies plus retail facilities and housing.

Deputy Mayor Tom Crothers and city spokesman Jen Sorgenfrei accompanied the mayor. Four Toledo-area businessmen joined them, although Mayor Bell declined to name them, saying he did not have their permission to do so. Ms. Sorgenfrei said she hadn't yet totalled up the cost of the three-day trip, but estimated it at $3,000 for the three city officials, including airfare, hotel, and rental car. The money came out of the mayor's budget, which is supplied by the general fund, she said.

Asked why he kept quiet about the trip to the public, Mr. Bell said he doesn't feel it's necessary to put out information about such visits. Asked if he would tell the public about future trips, he said he "may not" and that if he doesn't write down his plans, they are not public record.

"I'm just going to take care of business. I'm not going for a lot of flash, and I'm just going to do whatever the people's work is," he said. "Some of this stuff I don't believe I have to explain. I'm going to be judged by how much I get done, not on how much I announce."

Contact Claudia Boyd-Barrett at: cbarrett@theblade.com or 419-724-6272.

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