TMACOG aids economic development effortsWritten by Anthony L. Reams | | firstname.lastname@example.org
We often try to describe the work of the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments (TMACOG) by saying we aren’t the government, but we make government better. We also add that we don’t do economic development, but we make economic development better.
TMACOG does not pave the roads nor build the water treatment plants, but we help elected officials and others decide on the best plan for roads and water in Northwest Ohio and parts of Southeast Michigan. We don’t make business deals, but we help others make their case.
TMACOG serves its members and the region with research, planning and analysis. We assemble the facts, do the research, offer facilities and help governments devise their own solutions. We are our region’s essential resource for transportation and environmental planning.
A council of governments has a unique structure. As the name implies, cities, villages and townships from around the region choose to become TMACOG members. Our primary membership area is Lucas, Wood, Ottawa, Fulton and Sandusky counties in Ohio and Monroe County in Michigan. We also have business and professional members, including park districts, farm bureaus and area industries. We are a widespread organization, with the participation of a variety of interests and expertise.
TMACOG is entirely nonpartisan. Elected officials and others work together toward common goals, and TMACOG works to help form consensus and make the region’s concerns heard on state and federal levels. TMACOG’s professional staff includes engineers, database analysts, sophisticated mapmakers and certified planners in transportation and environmental fields. TMACOG’s work is determined by the challenges and opportunities of members.
TMACOG is the agency in our region in charge of organizing transportation projects. That means we help all the cities, townships and villages in Lucas and Wood counties and southern Monroe County decide what roads and bridges to repair and what new transportation infrastructure we need and can afford.
TMACOG analyzes traffic projections and census data, tells communities where traffic is likely to back up and where crashes happen most often. It then helps communities get money to make transportation improvements. When communities have decided their priorities, we work to keep projects on track, making sure money will be in the budget.
Most transportation money is spent on maintenance. All communities work to keep roads in good repair before they build more. Some projects, however, are big changes. More than 20 years ago, the members of TMACOG decided a new Maumee River Crossing was needed. TMACOG included the bridge in long-range plans, and members kept up the momentum to get the project to the Ohio Department of Transportation and completed. A top priority in our current long-range plan is the development of an inland port: a multimodal freight-handling facility.
Investment in a region’s transportation system paves the way for economic development. In the business of freight shipping, an entirely new industry is developing based on transportation logistics and value-added warehousing, an industry that TMACOG is helping to develop.
We are actively working with people in government and the freight industry to tie our region’s elements together into a tight, efficient network of diverse freight services. An inland port would be a giant step forward.
Commuters are also served by an excellent transportation system. Quality of life is good when workers can accept jobs in nearby suburbs because the driving commute is quick and safe; when children can safely walk or ride a bus to school; and when people who don’t drive can still get around using public transit. TMACOG also works with communities in the region to tie together our many bike paths into systems that can be used for commuting, as well as recreation.
Quality of life
Just as roads and bridges cross political boundaries, water and air circulate across our arbitrary borders. TMACOG’s work in environmental planning recognizes that a region’s natural resources are critical to the health of the population. Safe water and air supplies are also critical to economic health. In our region, our rivers and Lake Erie are enormous economic boons. We have nearly unlimited access to clean fresh water, an asset becoming increasingly valuable. The lake attracts recreation and also industry.
TMACOG and its members work with groups that are trying to manage storm water, remove contaminated sediments from rivers and keep pollutants from entering streams, rivers and lakes. Our primary mandate is to help communities stay in compliance with the Clean Water Act.
We do this by facilitating joint plans to manage sewer construction and storm water, by sharing best management practices and by public education projects. The environmental department works with health departments, water facility planning areas, private environmental groups and state and national regulatory agencies. Communities in Northwest Ohio rely on TMACOG to assist them in the fundamental job of providing clean water to residents.
Air quality is also critical to a healthy community.
In 2007, for the first time in decades, Lucas and Wood County are in compliance with all measured air pollutants. This has obvious benefits. In addition to safeguarding the health of the population, clean air means a business considering new facilities will not be immediately required to take expensive steps to further mitigate emissions. Drivers do not have to have special inspections; gas stations do not need to install vapor recovery systems.
TMACOG works with local governments to coordinate with federal agencies that regulate air quality. We analyze data from monitoring devices and keep the public informed about steps they can take to continue to improve our region’s air quality.
Economic development planning
TMACOG is our region’s comprehensive planning organization with all that entails: a commitment to partnership as our best hope for advancing our plans; a duty to represent the concerns of the entire community, and practical, realistic analysis. Our members can see a record of accomplishment from the 40 years of TMACOG’s existence. All these improvements — in transportation systems and protection of natural resources — contribute to a stronger economic life in Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan.
Anthony L. Reams is president of Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments