Port CEO sets ‘realistic goals’Written by Julie Ryan | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael Stolarczyk first set foot in Toledo’s Amtrak Station on a cold and rainy April 21. He walked around the waiting area with his hands behind his back and observed the little details of the building, taking special interest in the 1950s-style benches.
He was impressed.
Still in his first month as president of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, Stolarczyk had already visited the other major Port Authority sites: the Toledo Express Airport, facilities and docks. And in his mind, he is still formulating a goal for the Port Authority.
“If I had any goal, it would be that we got to capitalize on some of the natural things that we have here,” Stolarczyk said. “I mean, it’s a confluence of three major highways, a confluence of three major rail carriers, a fantastic airport for not only passenger travel but also one of the largest cargo lines in the United States. I think that it’s impressive that Toledo is in the top 50 cargo hubs in the whole world.”
Stolarczyk said he wants to accentuate the assets Toledo already has.
Avoiding the “pie in the sky”
It’s no secret the economy is declining, but Stolarczyk believes in remaining flexible during the downturn and gearing up for it to bounce back.
“I think it’s the right time to take some aggressive steps when the economy is down so that when it bounces back we’ll be ahead of the curve,” he said.
Part of that, he said, is to be openminded to new forms of business.
“It’s not necessarily what’s manufactured here back in the day, or what is consumed here, I think what the Port Authority really wants to do is create a platform where whatever transits here, that we touch during the transit, and we generate income and we generate jobs,” Stolarczyk said.
Stolarczyk said there’s no reason Toledo cannot be like Columbus or Minneapolis – especially considering i’s proximity to Canada.
He also believes creating jobs in the city is a reasonable goal – as long as people avoid “pie in the sky” ideas.
“But we have to be careful to separate the hype from the reality,” he said. “I think it’s very important to stay grounded in reality.”
Part of Stolarczyk’s positive attitude toward creating more jobs, and his ability to stay grounded in reality, comes from his parents, he said.
Three of his four grandparents are first-generation Polish immigrants – one grandmother was second-generation. His grandfather was a coal miner on the Ohio River, and Stolarczyk said much of his work ethic came from his mother, “a coal miner’s daughter.”
Stolarczyk has been married to his wife Pamela for 16 years and raised three children – all born in different countries. His eldest son was born in Hong Kong while Stolarczyk was working for Maersk Hong Kong Limited. His second son was born in Danberry, Conn., his only child with a U.S. birth certificate, and his daughter was born in Prague, Czech Republic.
Due to his work over the years, the family has lived in eight different houses, he said. His wife and children are now in Westerville, near Columbus, finishing the school year and getting the house ready for the real estate market in May. They hope to be relocated to Toledo in time for the school year.
But having lived in Asia and Europe has challenged the family in many ways.
“Coming back to the states in 2004 was probably our most difficult transition. I think we’re still having the effects of that transition. We left in 1999, pre-9/11, and we came back to a country that simply was not the one we left.”
He leaves Toledo, and his apartment at Commodore Perry Apartments, on Friday at 4:30 p.m. Stolarczyk said he spends time supporting his kids’ school and sporting endeavors over the weekend and leaves for Toledo at 4 a.m. Monday – making it back to Toledo in time for the weekly meetings at 7:30 a.m. at the Port Authority.
Port Authority Chairman Bill Carroll said he believes Stolarczyk will continue to move the Port Authority forward and use the momentum it has from recent stimulus package funding.
“He seemed to have the enthusiasm that we liked and the experience we wanted. I think it was really important that he wanted the job,” Carroll said. “He’s a very enthusiastic individual, and I think we need that type of leader at the Port Authority.”
Stolarczyk said he faced an “arduous” six-month interview process before taking the position March 13. But he likes the challenge because he said he recognized his outsider status and believes he will have more perspective to create solutions for some of Toledo’s problems.
“When you are inside of something for so long, being a business man in Toledo, being a bank in Toledo, being in the Port Authority, … you take it for granted and you think it’s just one thing,” he said. “But coming from the outside in, it’s just amazing what we have to offer and how it probably, for whatever reason, not being negative but really more forward-looking, it just hasn’t been packaged or utilized yet.”
Stolarczyk is meeting on an individual basis for introductory meetings with Toledoans involved with the Port Authority – from police officers at the airport to city council members.
“I looked at all these pieces of the puzzle, and they just need to be put together in the right way,” he said.
The Port Authority, and now Stolarczyk, works with aviation, maritime and development in Toledo, said Matt Sapara, director of development for the Port Authority. IRONHEAD Marine Inc. have a new high-bay facility at the Toledo Shipyard; Midwest Terminals of Toledo International, Cedar Point Developers, Amtrak and dozens of other companies partner with the Port Authority, Sapara said.
Stolarczyk said the Port Authority is also waiting to receive stimulus package funding and plotting how it will be used.
One place is the Midwest Terminals, where Stolarczyk pointed out cranes from the 1940s, sea walls to be reinforced and clean up at the dockyard.
He also hopes to research energy efficiency and discover the results of the Port Authority’s solar field near the Toledo Express Airport, which will produce two megawatts of power. Sapara said the Port will also put up a meteorological tower by the end of summer at Midwest Terminals. The tower will be a test to see if windmills can be used at the location for wind energy.
Developments are also key to the Port Authority. It invested $500,000 in 100 acres of land to develop in Oregon and hope to make 20 percent off their investment. Thirteen acres of the land is already developed. Sapara said there is a 350-acre chunk of land at the south end of the airport after they bought up residential land. The land remains mostly undeveloped, but Sapara said people are interested in developing it.
“We sift a lot of information and probably on a daily basis we have people connect with the Port Authority,” Sapara said. “We get offers and ideas on the hour every day. It’s about how we evaluate the viability, how we evaluate the organizations that present the opportunities.”
Stolarczyk said the goal is for the honeymoon to never end. Meaning, he wants to perform his job well, help the community, grow the Port Authority and keep the “honeymoon” feel of beginning a new job going.
“I would say that, if we do what is intended, i.e., speak with one voice, brand ourselves, focus on incubating businesses and jobs and the transportation node here – all forms of it – I’ll be here for a long time,” he said. “I can tell you that if I don’t personally accomplish those goals, the community and the board will tire.”