Michigan & Ohio Working Together for Economic Growth

By:  Danielle Portteus
Monroe News

Michigan and Ohio need to rely on each other to grow the region. That was the message at a session on economic development and partnerships Friday at Monroe Bank & Trust headquarters.

The Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments hosted “Being Prepared When Opportunity Knocks.” TMACOG President Anthony Reams said the organization has changed its focus in recent years to encourage partnership and development. “ We have really shifted our focus to economic development in recent years,” he said the crowd of about 50 people. “ We are trying to bring people together to discuss it.”

Speakers discussed a variety of topics, including the role of ports in economic development, the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy ( CEDS) for Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan, the I- 75 Corridor and the opportunities available through the Gordie Howe International Bridge and business site selection.

Lucas County Commissioner Carol Contrada, who worked on the CEDS, said it was important to include Monroe County in the plan. “ When we talk about regional economic development, we knew our region had to include Monroe County,” she said.

The CEDS includes Monroe County along with the Ohio counties of Lucas, Ottawa and Wood. CEDS is a comprehensive economic development plan that prioritized regional programs for economic development. Its purpose was to determine key location factors for businesses to want to come to the region. The factors were the local labor market, transportation, real estate and quality of life, among others.

Steve Weitzner, principal of Silverlode Consulting, reviewed the CEDS plan, which he called “a living document that’s supposed to be revisited frequently.” He said the document identifies a variety of sectors that where the area can attract or grow business, including automotive, logistics and transportation, agribusiness, advanced manufacturing and advanced and alternative energies.

Forty potential projects were submitted as priority projects and were narrowed to nine overall that the region feels strongly in promoting.

The two in Monroe County selected as a priority were the Dundee Industrial Park and former Nike missile site in Frenchtown Township.

The Dundee project would be the development of an onsite substation for heavy industrial power at REO industrial park. The Nike project would be the redevelopment of 260 acres from former military base and missile site into an industrial park.

Additional projects targeted as priorities include the Port Clinton harbor front; Sugar Creek in Sandusky, Ohio; facility improvements to Mercy Health Care in Toledo; Midwest Terminals of Toledo; Northwest Ohio Advanced Manufacturing Center; a natural gas pipeline in Oregon, Ohio, and Project Oregon Clean Energy.

During his presentation, Tim Lake, president of the Monroe County Business Development Corp., talked about how the county expanded its vision beyond boundaries. “Over the years, we were very focused on the county an didn’t look outside of the county,” Mr. Lake said. “ Things have changed and evolved beyond the county in the last four or five years.”

The region shares ports, I- 75 and US- 23, rail lines and two international airports ( Toledo and Detroit Metropolitan) which Mr. Lake called key to regional success.

Trevor Brydon, certified planner from the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, discussed the potential impact of the yet-to-be-constructed Gordie Howe International Bridge. He said the bridge would bring six additional lanes of capacity, be able to handle hazardous materials and have an improved network in place to supply operations. There are challenges to the new bridge’s creation particularly when it comes to transporting goods around the state.

“ There are challenges for Michigan, including infrastructure,” he said. “Ohio has spent far more money on its roads than Michigan.”

Ultimately, a new bridge will have a major impact on the local economy, said Dennis Marvin, communications director of the New Generation Department for Consumers Energy who also spoke at the gathering. “ The new bridge will showcase the whole region,” he said. “Each day, $ 204 million is traded between the U. S. and Canada. With this bridge, this could be an economic fortune for this region and we have to take advantage of it.”