Local communities in 2008 saw a mix of new businesses, infrastructure improvements, and cautionary spending as the economy slowed to a crawl across the county.
In Northwood, new businesses included Back Alley Cyber Café, Dalton & Associates, Simply EZ Meals, M&B Tax, Sunoco on Wales Road, Sunoco on Woodville Road, UniFirst Corporation, Parker Hannifin and CSX Transportation.
In December, council approved Phase I of its Central Business District (CBD), which includes all of Woodville Road, Commerce Park Blvd, the Woodville Mall and Great Eastern Shopping Center. The purpose of the CBD, which went into effect Jan. 5, 2009, is to help make Woodville Road more aesthetically pleasing and pedestrian friendly, with the promotion of design standards, uniform street lights, and street trees, according to Mayor Mark Stoner.
The city also spent over $1.6 million for new construction projects and issued 363 zoning permits for residential, commercial and industrial construction
Infrastructure projects included the installation of new storm sewers along Rood Street, which was resurfaced, intersection improvements at Curtice and Coy roads, and the construction of a new salt dome on the municipal building lot.
Northwood, like most communities, tightened its belt as the economy soured.
Administrator Pat Bacon said the city is delaying the purchase of three new police vehicles and a front end loader for the streets department, which will each cost $100,000.
“We’re holding off to see how we’re doing financially in a couple of months,” said Bacon.
The city has also eliminated $50,000 from the budget for sidewalk repairs and replacement.
Last year, actual general fund revenue decreased by 5.45 percent from the previous year, said Bacon. And actual income tax collection declined by 3.87 percent.
The city’s finance director projected another 5.4 percent decrease in actual revenues this year, considering the state of the economy.
Actual general fund expenditures increased by 7.89 percent from the previous year, she said.
“Budgeted expenditures in 2009 is 3.4 percent less than 2008,” said Bacon.
Administrator Ken Filipiak said a diverse economy has helped insulate Oregon from the effects of the recession.
“We’ve had a lot of large commercial development in the last several years. We have Wal-Mart and Menards, and a number of the smaller businesses next to Wal-Mart. These have helped,” he said.
BP and Sunoco refineries, and St. Charles Mercy and Bay Shore Community hospitals have been a big part of the local economy, said Filipiak.
“The two refineries make us unique, and having two major hospitals is significant,” he said.
“We’ve also seen a lot of new businesses in our industrial park pop up. We have a lot of warehousing and distribution in the area,” he added.
This year, a new Sonic restaurant and hotel will be built on Navarre Avenue.
“Don’t get me wrong. We expect our economy is going to slow down this year. But we probably won’t be hit as hard as some of the other suburban communities that aren’t as diversified,” he said.
The city’s ambitious $26 million capital improvements schedule this year will also help, he added.
“When times are tough and there isn’t a lot of work out there, we see some very competitive bids that we wouldn’t otherwise see in a robust economy. We’re hoping Oregon residents will save some money on the cost of these projects through some favorable bids,” he said.
“This administration’s philosophy as long as I’ve been with the city is to be very conservative in our outlook. We’ve done a pretty good job of accumulating a reserve balance with the city. We haven’t added permanent personnel to the city’s payroll in over a decade. So we’ve been doing more with less.”
Like state and local governments across the nation, the county is facing significant shortfalls in revenue, according to Lucas County Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak.
“As our local families and businesses cut back to make ends meet, we’ve had to take steps to reduce the size of county government,” said Wozniak. “We’ve consolidated a number of departments countywide, creating savings through efficiency. We’ve negotiated a wage freeze for our employees for 2009 and unfortunately, had to layoff a number of employees to balance this year’s budget.”
Wozniak led efforts to provide a one-stop resource for jobseekers and businesses, called The Source, and created the Save Our Homes Task Force in response to the foreclosure crisis, developing innovative solutions to this problem.
“I’ve advocated for a streamlined economic development agency that is truly working to put people back to work,” said Wozniak.
Pete Gerken, president of the board of commissioners, led the board in its commitment of $1,500,000 to the Maumee Authority Stamping Plant so that hundreds of employees could go back to work.
“I worked closely with our Workforce Development Agency to assure displaced workers got the training they needed and undertook the task of ensuring the utility rates for Lucas County citizens are fair and affordable,” said Gerken.
“As the newly elected board president, I plan to lead this board in a fiscally responsible way and ensure that our most vital services are protected,” Gerken continued. “We must work harder with the resources we have at The Source, continue to attract new business and new jobs to our area, and we must work together so that we can find real solutions to these real challenges.”