By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer
With funding for the region’s lead economic development agency threatened, local corporations have stepped up with big bucks of their own.
Led by giants like the Dana Corp., Owens Corning, and MidAm Bank, the campaign to renew the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority’s 0.4-mill levy has raised $106,850 in 1999, according to campaign finance reports filed this week. That’s more than twice what the campaign had raised at this point last year. More than 90 per cent of the money has been from donations of $1,000 or more.
Voters go to the polls Nov. 2 to decide whether to renew the levy, which raises $2.2 million annually and expires at the end of the year. When given the chance to renew it in 1998, voters rejected it, 55 per cent to 45 per cent.
Most of the levy money – $1.45 million – is used to fund the port authority’s economic development arm, the Regional Growth Partnership, whose aim is to increase economic activity in the Toledo area.
The $1.45 million makes up three-quarters of the growth partnership’s annual budget. The rest goes to the port authority.
If renewed, the property tax would cost the owner of a $70,000 home $7.30 annually. A mill equals $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value.
Last year, pro-levy forces had raised only $51,000 at this stage of the election cycle.
Many of this year’s large donors have connections to the port authority or the growth partnership, either through board members or business links.
N-Viro International Corp., the company of port board’s vice-chairman, J. Patrick Nicholson, gave $2,000.
Dunbar Mechanical, Inc., gave $1,500. Its owner, Harlton “Harley” Dunbar, is a member of the growth partnership board.
TolTest, Inc., a construction and environmental testing firm, gave $2,000
Its former owner, Bill Boyle, is a former member of the port board. Former TolTest President Jerry Chabler is a current port board member.
The law firm of Spengler Nathanson, which does legal work for the port authority, contributed $3,000 to the levy campaign.
Hart Associates, the Maumee-based public relations company that is helping run this year’s campaign, gave $1,000.
According to the report filed with the Lucas County board of elections, the port authority campaign had $4,631 left over from last year’s unsuccessful campaign.
So far this year, it has spent $47,885.95, with more than $40,000 going to Hart Associates.
The campaign has more than $63,000 remaining on hand for future media buys and campaign expenses.
The report also states that the Toledo Area Chamber of Commerce forgave a $15,500 loan it gave the campaign two weeks before last year’s levy election.
The chamber also gave the campaign a contribution of $10,000, this year’s largest.
Levy campaign co-chairmen, Thomas Palmer and Lloyd Mahaffey, did not return phone calls seeking comment.
The following companies and organizations gave $1,000 or more, according to the report:
* $10,000: Toledo Area Chamber of Commerce.
* $5,000: Dana Corp., Fifth Third Bank political action committee, S.E. Johnson Cos., Owens Corning, KeyBank National Association, Home Builders Association of Greater Toledo, MidAm Bank, and National City Bank.
* $3,000: Spengler Nathanson and Gerken Paving.
* $2,500: Realtors political action committee, Lathrop Co., GEM Industrial, Inc., and National City Bank Investments.
* $2,000: TolTest, Inc., Port Lawrence Title & Trust, Capital Bank, N-Viro International Corp., HCR ManorCare, Inc., and Toledo Molding & Die, Inc.
* $1,500: Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, Dunbar Mechanical, Inc., Romanoff Electric Corp., Mechanical Contractors Association of Northwest Ohio, Skillcraft Systems of Toledo.
* $1,000: A.A. Boos & Sons, Brooks Insurance Agency, Laibe Electric Co., Pilkington Libbey-Owens-Ford, Service Products Buildings, Inc., Mosser Construction, Kuhlman Corp., Auburndale Co., Danberry National Ltd., Aeroquip-Vickers, Inc., and Hart Associates.