Northwood City Council at a meeting on Sept. 27 agreed to write a letter to officials at FedEx Freight, Inc., to ask if local contractors could be hired as part of the company’s expansion project.
Several local building contractors, prior to council’s decision, showed up at the meeting to complain that FedEx Freight, Inc., is using out of town contractors to build the 135,000-square-foot facility in Northwood.
“We have an issue with the FexEx project going on with out of state contractors,” said John Schlagheck, executive secretary of the Northwest Ohio Building Trades Council. “We represent hundreds of local contractors, who could have done this project. We represent 12,000 building trades members that work for these local contractors who could have built this project. There’s some community development monies going toward this. How could this happen without one local contractor getting the project when there’s people right here in Northwood, members and contractors, sitting at home and watching this building being built. Imagine if that was you. Is there anything council can do about it to try and get some of this turned around? The job is in the beginning. Some of the contracts have been let, some probably haven’t yet.”
Jeff Pitzen, of Chantilly Rue, and a 35 year member of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 50, said he always has supported local levies “no questions asked.”
“I expect my tax dollars to be used wisely. To give money to out of town contractors as opposed to where the money would be spent here and taxes coming back here, I don’t see where that makes any sense,” said Pitzen. “We only help ourselves when we increase our own revenue. There are many capable people who can do that job. When our contractors aren’t even asked, I don’t understand that.”
Chris Monaghan, of Rossford, a member of the Sheet Metal Workers union, asked council why the city couldn’t require companies to use local labor for projects in Northwood.
“I know in Michigan you only can be a Michigan contractor to bid that work. Why can’t you stipulate that you have to be an Ohio contractor of this area to work on the project? You on city council can make these stipulations when you zone stuff, when you grant money to contractors,” he said.
Lou Szabo, a resident of Toledo who works in Northwood as a business representative of the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 50, said many of his union’s members are also not going to have the opportunity to work on the project.
“I stopped there personally [at FedEx] and was sent a polite letter in the mail saying they weren’t even considering other bids,” said Szabo. “I have 19 members who live in Northwood. The use of local labor is what makes sense. Most of the people in this room are local building trades men and women who are cut out of these projects when contractors from other states are brought in. We would love to have something done. If nothing else, the least I ask council to do is send a letter to FedEx, send a letter to the developer, to ask them to reconsider looking at some of the bidders and opening it up to some local contractors to get a chance at this. Then in the future, put it on your radar when you look at zoning changes, and developers asking for something. And just be aware of it. So often, local workers are not heard. Sometimes it’s our fault because we’re not out there lobbying as much as we should. But I want you to look at this room and understand that we are here, and the local workers would like to work.”
Joe Cousino, business manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 8, which represents over 2,000 members across northwest Ohio, agreed.
“As a representative of the electrical workers, I would ask if you would please at least tonight reach out to the folks at FedEx and the general contractor and express your displeasure with the fact that they are bringing in out of town workers into your area that will affect the tax base out here. It’s so important that we keep jobs locally and we need your help,” he said.
Northwood council then approved a motion by Councilman Ed Schimmel to direct the city administrator to draft a letter to the general contractor of the FedEx project “imploring them to open up bids to some local contractors and subcontractors,” to a burst of applause from the audience.