Wilkowski has best jobs planWritten by Joe McNamara | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Keith Wilkowski should be the next mayor because he has the best plan to create jobs and help Toledo’s middle-class families. Mike Bell has consistently campaigned on bringing people together and talking. While this statement is a great sound-bite, it’s not a campaign platform. And it’s certainly not a strategy for economic development. In order for Toledo to truly succeed, our next mayor must be a leader, not a mediator.
As president of city council, I have a front-row seat to the economic development theater of Mayor Carleton S. Finkbeiner. Quite frankly, Toledo cannot afford another administration that squanders opportunities, fails to cooperate with partners and lacks a clear vision of Toledo’s future. In these three areas, Keith Wilkowski is the superior choice given his detailed campaign platform and his impressive track record.
Taking advantage of opportunities
For two and a half years, Mayor Finkbeiner served as his own director of economic development. No matter what the mayor’s intentions or capabilities, this staffing decision was a horrible mistake. The mayor of the City of Toledo simply does not have time to do the job of a full-time economic development director. Being busy working with city council and overseeing thousands of city workers does not give anyone the time to properly handle economic development.
Perhaps because of Keith’s experience as a city law director (a position that touched virtually every aspect of municipal government including economic development), he has committed to hire a full-time economic development director. Mike Bell has stated publicly that he would not hire an economic development director, but instead would have a “business advocate.” A good economic development director certainly advocates for business, but does much, much more. Mike Bell’s inexperience in economic development is leading him to make a similar staffing mistake on this critical issue.
Having a full-time economic development director allows the city to focus on attracting and growing existing businesses. Not appropriately staffing the Department of Economic Development will simply lead to additional missed opportunities.
The Wilkowski record on job creation through cooperation is excellent. When Keith served as a county commissioner, he helped implement a plan that brought BAX Global (at that time called Burlington Air Express) to the airport. This move created 1,000 jobs and was accomplished through cooperation with the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority.
And Wilkowski repeatedly showed his ability to work with other jurisdictions through the creation of Joint Economic Development Zones with Maumee, Rossford and Monclova Township. These agreements have literally brought millions of dollars into the city’s coffers. This type of win-win approach to economic development is exactly what the city needs to succeed. Keith has already shown his willingness to work with neighboring jurisdictions by suggesting new cooperative economic development agreements.
A Wilkowski administration will hit the ground running in terms of cooperative economic development. While Mr. Bell has worked with other jurisdictions on safety issues, his administration will be playing catch-up on the economic development front. With double-digit unemployment, Toledo cannot afford to wait for a mayor to have a learning curve.
Wilkowski has a strategic vision for Toledo’s future. To implement that vision, Keith has suggested something novel for Toledo: develop an economic development plan and then follow it! In brief, Wilkowski’s priorities are: high-value manufacturing jobs, green-collar construction jobs, knowledge-based jobs, transportation and small business.
Personally, I see Toledo as having great potential in the alternative-energy and “green” sectors of the new economy. In fact, we are already utilizing federal dollars to stimulate local businesses through the creation of a municipal solar field. This idea was suggested by Wilkowski and approved by city council. The municipal solar field will use locally manufactured solar panels, reduce the city’s electric bill and help us market Toledo as a leader in alternative energy.
On the other hand, Mike Bell is somewhat wary of green economic development and has stated that “it may take years to see results.” The next mayor must diversify Toledo’s economy and not focus solely on one field. But, the enormous strides that UT has made in start-up alternative energy businesses should be applauded and assisted by the city. Toledo has a unique opportunity to form a cluster of good, green jobs and we need a mayor with vision to seize this opportunity.
In conclusion, both candidates are excellent individuals who are dedicated to serving the city. But because jobs is the most serious issue affecting the city, Keith Wilkowski’s willingness to take advantage of opportunities, his track-record of cooperation and his vision all make him the clear choice for mayor.
Joe McNamara is president of Toledo City Council.