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Published: 4/13/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Bell takes look at technology cities can use

Mayor talks with prospects, then views new products

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Mayor Mike Bell talks with his spokesman, Jen Sorgenfrei, about meetings he has set up in Hanover. Mayor Mike Bell talks with his spokesman, Jen Sorgenfrei, about meetings he has set up in Hanover.
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HANOVER, Germany — Juergen Loos lives in London but is familiar with Toledo from his years living in the United States.

He envisions both cities getting smart.

“Cities are highly under pressure because everyone has significant problems,” said Mr. Loos, head of solutions and integrations for the global company Siemens Infrastructure and Cities.

Siemens, which has developed a “Smart Cities” initiative for municipalities, was among more than a dozen companies showcasing smart technologies and techniques in a dedicated hall at Hannover Messe, the world’s largest technology show.

It included examples of LED smart lights, wastewater management, and better energy usage. All appeals to Toledo Mayor Mike Bell, who spent time in that “Metropolitan Solutions” area after completing his second day at Hannover Messe wooing companies to consider Toledo for investment or expansion.

Mr. Bell said investing in sustainability is worth the cost. The city and Lucas County have split much of the cost of a sustainability study this year.

“You have to put money and time into these issues, and if you don’t put money and time into them, other cities will, and they are going to take your population,” the mayor said.

Mr. Loos spent time showing Mr. Bell what Siemens has done for other cities.

“More and more people live in cities, and since late 2007, there are more people living in cities than outside of cities, and this trend will go on,” he said. “I live in London and you have traffic problems, energy problems, air pollution, and I think it is a big challenge to deal with these and make cities livable and sustainable.

Mr. Loos said Siemens has conducted studies of cities related to nine “dimensions,” consisting of carbon dioxide emissions, energy-efficiency, land use, buildings, transportation, water, waste, air, and environmental governance.

The firm showed that energy efficiency is better in Cleveland than in New York while New York surpassed Cleveland in other ways.

“I know Toledo, and the challenges are always the same,” Mr. Loos added. “Traffic, energy efficiency, sustainability, and resilience.”

As Mayor Bell moved from booth to booth in the sustainable-cities area, it was sometimes a dance between him trying to attract development and companies trying to sell him products and services.

Mayor Bell hears about wastewater-management systems from Jorg Holtmann of Krohne, which was among several companies in the ‘Metropolitan Solutions’ section at the Hannover Messe. Mayor Bell hears about wastewater-management systems from Jorg Holtmann of Krohne, which was among several companies in the ‘Metropolitan Solutions’ section at the Hannover Messe.
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Jorg Holtmann, a manager working for German-based Krohne — which works with wastewater management — told Mr. Bell the company has a small office in Peabody, Mass.

The mayor’s first question: “Are you looking to expand?” While Mr. Holtmann’s answer was yes, his next move was to bring the mayor around the company display — showing him various state-of-the art filtration systems, water-level monitoring technology, and remote detection devices.

All of it looked good, Mr. Bell said.

“I am not the technical person, but I will bring some of this back to Toledo,” Mr. Bell told him.

Daniel Fuchs, founder of Unique Lights, an Austrian company that manufactures LED lights in Germany, took a quick look for the mayor’s delegation when he learned about its presence.

The firm, which does not do business in the United States but is looking for partners, makes lights for industrial, commercial, and municipal uses. Its product illuminated the Hannover Messe section for Metropolitan Solutions.

“LED is less consuming, meaning you can save up to 80 percent on your lighting,” Mr. Fuchs said. “It is not cheaper, but the product lasts much longer and consumes much less. ... The problem in the United States is that energy is still very cheap compared to Europe, so the higher the energy cost gets, the higher LED production will get.”

Before leaving the section, Mr. Bell and his administration spokesman, Jen Sorgenfrei, were treated to a zippy ride around the floor in an electric car.

“It had really good pickup,” the mayor said.

Although perusing sustainable-city concepts was a nice diversion for Mayor Bell and his team — which included Deputy Mayor Paul Syring, Finance Director Patrick McLean, and Paul Zito, vice president of international development for the Regional Growth Partnership — the real job for two days has been to introduce international businessmen to Toledo.

Part of the final day in Hannover included an extended meeting with a top executive from Kuka, which manufactures robotic arms, including those used at Chrysler Group LLC’s Toledo Assembly plant in Toledo.

Approximately 250 Kuka employees work at Jeep’s factory in Toledo, maintaining its robots.

Wilfried Eberhardt, executive vice president of marketing and associations for Kuka, spent a lot of time with Mr. Bell.

“We have things like spot-welding machines, which is not new, but we have improved it,” Mr. Eberhardt said. “We have really cool, new stuff like our lightweight robot that is an innovative product. It is the first sensitive, industrial robot only for labs and universities.”

He was also familiar with Toledo. “This business we have in Toledo is very important,” he said. “We are producing the body for the Jeep Wrangler.”

Mr. Zito, who has been to the Hanover fair with former Ohio Govs. Bob Taft and George Voinovich and Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic, said the trip was a good success that produced several “good leads” for him to follow up on and it was important to show support to companies already operating in Toledo.

“Mayor Bell was great,” Mr. Zito said after leaving the convention Friday, the last of five days it ran. “He was good in the meetings, he was good going over strategies about the meetings, and enjoyable to be with, and the people loved him.”

Mr. Zito lived in Europe for 15 years and has attended Hannover Messe for 15 years. He has acted as the mayor’s translator and facilitator on this trip, much the same way deal-maker Simon Guo did for Mr. Bell during his four trips to China.

Both Mr. Zito and Mr. Guo hold positions with the Regional Growth Partnership, once the economic development arm of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority. It broke off to become a privately funded entity that seeks economic development for the region.

Dean Monske, RGP chief executive, was the mayor’s top economic development official and a deputy mayor before leaving to run the agency.

Mr. Bell, who faces re-election this year, said he would not make any other international economic development trips this year, but he has committed to visit Hyderabad, Pakistan, in February, 2014. It is one of Toledo’s 10 sister cities, like Delmenhorst, Germany, where the Toledo team is staying.

This weekend, the Toledo delegation will view a recycling facility in Delmenhorst, followed by a reception with Delmenhorst Mayor Patrick de La Lanne. The team will go to the Port of Bremen on Sunday.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171.



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