LeFebvre: Toledo has the location, now we need actionWritten by Fred LeFebvre | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Location, location, location. Every real estate agent worth his or her salt knows the importance of those three little words in making a sale. So why hasn’t any Toledo politician in the past 50 years taken note of where the city is and what it has to offer? We are told year after year of the great potential this area has for growth because of the combined assets that surround us.
Let’s take a look at what they are.
The Maumee River has been here for centuries, ever since the days of the Great Black Swamp. Talk of using it as a tourist attraction come and go regularly in One Government Center. A quick check of the riverfront, however, shows very little progress for an asset that has been here since before the city itself. Portside has come and gone; a children’s science museum sits in its place attracting schoolchildren during the week and little else. Promenade Park sits empty next to a steam plant that at one time was supposed to house condos and shops. Citizens were told by the previous mayor that vertical construction on a much-anticipated marina district would be finished “soon.” The city still waits, as it does for the Great Lakes cruise ships that were to be summer visitors to the port authority-owned terminal.
Toledo Express Airport is another asset, which seems to be wasting away. Recently, Delta Airlines pulled out of the beleaguered facility, citing lack of customers. This is hardly the vision William Levis had in mind when he first started to buy property to replace Metcalf Field. The airport, which opened in 1955, is a victim not only of the economic times but of its board’s lack of foresight in responding to falling passenger numbers.
The same year Toledo Express opened, the Ohio Turnpike was finished. It promised to open the East-West route to a huge part of America’s population to Toledo goods. Twenty years later, I-75 cut a swath through the city and created a perfect crossroads for Toledo businesses and an easy path for tourists to get here.
Location, location, location.
Toledo has location in spades. It’s hard to imagine sitting here and realizing that the city is within 500 miles of 93 million people — that’s 38 percent of the population of the United States. The number is staggering if you continue to imagine that each one of those people could — and should — be considered potential customers.
So why aren’t they? Why aren’t they driving here to enjoy the Maumee River, attend our festivals and visit our historical landmarks? Why aren’t the lots at the Toledo Zoo filled with out-of-state license plates, the museum filled with non-Toledoans? Why aren’t the roads clogged with trucks filled with Toledo products being shipped all over the Midwest and beyond?
There is a pretty simple answer. It’s because for years, politicians have reacted too slowly to a changing market and the world around them. It was easier to ignore any new ideas since they didn’t come from the group of people who continued to get elected to office year in and year out. It was easier to build the big showplace and hope for the promised economic development that was to follow. Portside and the Hotel Sofitel are examples of that kind of thinking. So is Fifth-Third Field, which despite its beauty and reputation across the country, still faces abandoned storefronts.
Toledo has the location, location, location. We have a river, an airport, interstate highways and people willing to work. So where are the distribution centers, the intermodals, the entreprenuers, the people who will finally tire of hearing about potential and promise? Only one thing keeps them away at this point — the political will of elected officials to get out the way when necessary and lend a helping hand when asked.
I’ve been here since February of 1980. I have seen Portside and Northtowne Mall both open and close. I watched Southwyck Mall die and finally get demolished, movie theaters come and go, and one thing has stayed the same: It’s the promises made and not kept by our elected officials.
There isn’t an election for some time so it might seem like an odd time to talk about who we elect, but now is the time to find those people who will move this city forward and allow it to use its assets to its full potential. Now is the time to search for the men and women who will give us more than promises, promises, promises to go along with our location, location, location.
Fred LeFebvre is host of “Fred LeFebvre and the Morning News,” weekdays from 6 to 9 a.m. on WSPD 1370 AM. E-mail him at Fred@WSPD.com.