Port is home for foreign shippingWritten by Myndi Milliken | | email@example.com
A ship bearing a Dutch name comes to rest along Toledo’s docks after 12 days sailing across the Atlantic. Lumber is stacked high in its hold, waiting for transport to major cities for sale in home improvement stores. Also aboard are the captain and his crew, hailing from many parts of the globe.
Members of Toledo’s Port management company, Midwest Terminals of Toledo, greet the crew, shaking hands and offering smiles that have been shared before. Courtesy gifts are exchanged and the offer to toast a stiff drink repeats itself often, but the Americans politely decline, offering promises to meet up after-hours.
It is a side of commerce Toledo citizens rarely get to see. Every day, ships ride the waves of the Atlantic and pass up many ports to come into the heart of America — a vein of transportation for worldwide goods that proves beneficial for Toledo.
”Toledo is interesting for the lumber — you have a very big yard where you can store the lumber outside, and Toledo is seen as a very good logistical distribution center for this area,” said Hans Kroon, chartering manager with Wagenborg Shipping North America, a company based in the Netherlands. ”Cleveland and Detroit could be options, but they don’t have these big facilities.”
”The working relationship we have is very good,” Kroon said, noting Toledo Port officials have visited with his company many times to extend goodwill and earn his trust for their business.
”We travel to see if we can start to grow their business even more, because they do have the best fleet on the Great Lakes. We pay particular attention to customer service and how we can do things better,” said Matt Duty, director of marketing for Midwest Terminals of Toledo. Midwest Terminals operates the port under the direction of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority. Duty said international relationships often must be built on different terms than American business, but it has its rewards.
”To grow the business is going over and seeing people in Europe as well. It’s not just to let them come to you. That expectation is really frowned upon but they really appreciate it when you go over to see them, to see how they do business,” Duty said. ”In America, it’s always about the bottom line, but in Europe, it’s about relationships and trust.”
”We know the shippers in Germany and he knows the shippers in the U.S.,” Kroon said of the cooperation that has come from their relationship. ”Bring those together, it works out very well.”
Renaissance of growth
According to Jim Hartung, president and CEO of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, commerce coming into Toledo through the mouth of the Maumee River is a vital part of the City’s economic success.
”The seaport is involved in what I would call a renaissance of growth,” Hartung said. ”Midwest Terminals is a very aggressive operator that is committed to marketing and improving the facility.” For nearly 12 years, Hartung has served as president and CEO of the Port Authority. He said he has plans to help Toledo succeed, and feels strongly about its self-image.
”We need to believe in Toledo,” he said. ”We need to become energized by its potential. We have to be allowed to believe in ourselves.”
Hartung said his ultimate goal is ”to see Toledo recognized as a transportation center; not just where modes converge, but a center of innovation for transportation technology.”
The native of Chicago points to Toledo’s growing successes, such as the increasing commerce being seen at all points of Toledo’s transportation hub: the airport, turnpike, rails and waterways.
”I take exception to people saying Toledo isn’t getting any better,” he said. ”None of us are satisfied with the rate at which we are improving, but it is improving.”
Hartung said 20 years ago, this area was called the ”rust belt.”
”It was literally deteriorating, with an exodus of industry and business. We are now in the process of restoration,” he said.
November’s mayoral winner will have a major responsibility in setting the tone and the direction for Toledo, Hartung said.
”Our job will be to play to the mayor’s lead,” Hartung said. ”There’s value to Toledo as a loading center and distribution point.”
The ultimate goals of marketing the benefits of Toledo’s region: money and jobs.
”Jobs are the goal of everything we do,” Hartung said. ”By doing our job well, growth, jobs and investments will come naturally.”
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