The strategies for success sometimes come from that group of people we all love to hate and criticize—public employees.
So was the case in 2011.
In a year in which the biggest economic development news in our Eastern Maumee Bay Communities was Rieter Automotive announcing it would add 150 jobs, public officials played a big part in our hope for an economic turn-around.
Toledo Mayor Mike Bell and private developer Scott Prephan deserve credit for traveling to China and bringing foreign investment to our table. Those investors, Dashing Pacific, closed a $3.8 million deal on 69 acres of Marina District property. Site and marketing plans are being developed for an International Village, a destination point that promises to bring outside dollars to Northwest Ohio.
On a national level, the auto bailout implemented by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, saved the domestic auto industry. You can debate whether bankruptcy would have done the same thing, but it’s time to move on. The Big Three are hiring again and Northwest Ohio benefits from the bold action of two presidents. Chrysler announced it will invest $500 million in its Toledo operations and create 1,100 jobs. We will also benefit from spin-off jobs to our suppliers. Reiter in Oregon and Johnson Controls, Lear and Norplas in Northwood are a few suppliers in the Press distribution area who may benefit from the resurgence of Detroit’s Big Three.
Consumers are visiting area showrooms again. The average car in the U.S. is almost 11 years old, thanks to The Big Recession. Bernie Quilter, Lucas County clerk of courts, reports that new car sales in the county were up 5.1 percent in 2011 and 5.3 percent in 2010. Last year, 21,022 new vehicles were sold. Still those numbers are a far cry from the 31,916 vehicles sold in 2000 so we still have a ways to go. The seven dealers in the Press distribution area—those located in Oregon, Genoa, Oak Harbor, Gibsonburg and Pemberville—did considerably better. Their sales were up a combined 27 percent.
All seven sell American badges and the top sellers were what you would expect—the fuel efficient Ford Fusion and Escape and the Chevy Malibu and Equinox.
When the Big Three and their suppliers add jobs, the momentum ripples throughout the workforce. Local unemployment numbers are a little better today than they were a year ago. Employers who place help wanted ads in The Press placed 22.3 percent more ads in 2011 than in 2010.
Other positive news came on home foreclosures. There was a 23.9 percent drop in Lucas County, from 3,869 filings in 2010 to 2,946 in 2011, according to the Lucas County Clerk of Courts. In Wood County, there were 650 filings in 2010 compared to 504 in 2011, a 22.5 percent drop, according to the Wood County Clerk of Courts.
Unfortunately, home values took a dip. In Wood County, property values dropped by 10 percent since the last reappraisal six years ago, according to the auditor’s office. In East Toledo, which just a few years ago enjoyed the highest gains in property values in Lucas County, values have plummeted, due partly to a glut of vacant houses that have been stripped of aluminum siding, copper pipes and most anything else of salvageable value. Again, government is leading the way. The City of Toledo set a record of demolitions in 2011 with 410. The Lucas County Land Bank provided an additional $100,000 for that effort. The land bank also acquires tax delinquent properties, renovates the home or demolishes it and sells the property to a neighbor.
These efforts increase property values which increases your borrowing position and market price should you decide to sell.
School officials also made their contributions to our progress, albeit somewhat reluctantly. They closed seven local schools last year to cut costs, which helps keep money in your pockets. The closings displaced 1,737 students in five school districts. This may have been sad, but it was necessary.
The Oregon City Schools also started construction of wind turbines at Eisenhower Middle School. School officials are taking a leadership role in experimenting with alternative energy, which can benefit all of us.
Government shares the blame for the Big Recession along with Wall Street and the banks. The federal government created policies that encouraged home ownership regardless of sound lending practices and investment firms and the banks took advantage. But, today, those who work in government deserve credit for leading the way out of our economic morass with their strategies for success.
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