Twenty-five years ago, when The Press published its first Progress edition, Ohio ranked second in the nation for unemployment and in the top five for population loss.
Today, Ohio ranks 11th in unemployment and population has stabilized, growing 1.6 percent in the last nine years.
That’s progress. Maybe not at the rate we all want, but still progress.
This year, the press staff looks at development during the decade 2000-2009, a decade dominated by terrorism, two wars and The Great Recession, but still a decade that had bright spots.
To put it in context, let’s first look at the 80s and the 90s:
Infrastructure was the word in 1986 when we published our first Progress edition. The Millard Avenue overpass, which opened Oregon’s industrial land, was in the planning stages. A replacement was being considered for the Craig Bridge, which opened and closed 1,125 times in 1985, delaying traffic and deterring commerce. And, state officials finally moved forward on the Route 2 widening.
Today, the Route 2 project is complete and retail development in Oregon, anchored by Wal-Mart, has exploded increasing daily traffic to more than 26,000 vehicles, according to Toledo Metropolitan Council of Governments. Route 2’s gain was Woodville Road’s loss. In 1985, the Woodville Road corridor, anchored by Woodville Mall and Great Eastern, dominated retail trade. But, today both are in decline and the average daily traffic count passing Great Eastern is around 18,300 vehicles, according to TMACOG.
The Millard overpass was completed in 1997 and now more than 700 people work in seven new buildings covering more than 650,000 square feet.
The Craig Drawbridge has been replaced by the $250 million Veterans Glass City Skyway. Local officials predicted the new bridge would spur development. Maybe in time it will. But, if you believe anecdotal references, the bridge has just made it easier for us to go to West Toledo to shop and eat.
The 90s, by far, was the best of the three decades for development. It started in 1990 with the opening of the $50 million Maumee Bay State Park.
In 1992, Meijer’s opened its Oregon store and Sunoco invested $70 million in its Oregon refinery. But, it was from 1996 to 1999 that development really took off. More than $1.2 billion in investment was announced or completed. Projects included: the $235 million BP retooling project, the $200 million Troy Energy plant (now Dominion) in Troy Township; the $110 million Brush Wellman expansion in Elmore; the $150 million investment in Chrysler’s Perrysburg Township plant and the $77 million Norplas and $11 million Interstate Bakery projects in Northwood. In East Toledo, six new restaurants announced they would join the Navy Bistro at The Docks.
In the late 90s, no local area attracted more industrial firms than Access Pointe in Northwood and Cedar Park Business District in Perrysburg Township. From 1995 to 1997 more than $147 million was invested in Access Pointe alone creating more than 1,000 jobs.
In 1998, ProMedica announced it would invest $78 million in a new hospital (Bay Park) to serve the Eastern Maumee Bay Communities. A flurry of activity followed: Toledo Edison’s $180 million boiler project at the Bayshore Power Plant, the Eagles Landing residential-golf community, the $6 million Lake Erie Research building and the relocation of two East Toledo companies to remediated Brownfield sites at Miami and Oakdale saving more than 100 jobs.
The new decade started out with promise. Frank Kass announced a $178 million development of East Toledo’s riverfront called The Marina District, which would create 2,000 jobs. Lesser, but more realistic, projects totaled another $100 million and promised 540 jobs. Included was a $50 million turnaround at Sunoco.
It was a good start to a new century. Then 9-11, two wars and The Great Recession followed and here we sit—the Marina District, now under developer Larry Dillin, is still an unfulfilled promise.
The big news of the decade was the BP-Husky Energy announcement that the two companies would invest $2.5 billion into upgrading the Oregon refinery to process tar-sands oil from Alberta, Canada. Walgreens also invested $380 million in a 650,000 square-foot distribution Center at Oregon Road and Rt. 795 and created 318 jobs.
Toledo voters passed a bond issue, which released $800 million of tobacco money to rebuild the city’s schools. Voters in Gibsonburg and Genoa approved similar bond issues
There was one constant during the up and down years of the last three decades—our two refineries have been a stabilizing force. A study conducted last year for The Regional Growth Partnership estimated the annual impact of just the Sunoco refinery on Northwest Ohio’s economy. The study concluded Sunoco is responsible for 1,602 full-time equivalent jobs, a payroll of more than $95 million and an annual economic impact of $7.8 billion.
You can double that impact if you add in the BP Refinery.
The ‘aughts’ will not go down in local lore as the good old days for development, or jobs, or peace. But, we can take heart, the new decade has opened with promise. BP in January announced a $400 million investment to improve efficiency and plant competitiveness. The project will provide 200 construction jobs over the next two years.
That’s a good start.
We hope you enjoy this retrospective of development in the decade 2000-2009.
Comment at zoz @presspublications.com