Good afternoon, Rotarians and guests! It's good to be here and with you. And, I thank you for affording me the privilege of sharing with you today.
We have arrived at the dawn of a New Year, and all of the promise - and challenges it offers. 2008 will be remembered for many things. Jack Z. Smith in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram summarized it thusly:
"We're in a gargantuan mess of our own making, one aggravated by astonishingly irresponsible lending practices in the housing industry, excessive risk-taking by Wall Street fat cats and big banks, asleep-at-the-wheel government regulators, and naive leaders in Washington..." No sense beating around the bush!
2008 will also be remembered as the year Americans elected - overwhelmingly - its first African-American President. Just two weeks from tomorrow, this young Senator from Illinois, the land of Lincoln, will move into The White House, and inherit the challenges that confront this nation.
The Era of National Transformation will officially begin Jan. 20. However, Toledo's Transformation has already begun.
On the evening of Wednesday, December 17 at 6:50 p.m., ABC-TV officially proclaimed Toledo's Transformation on their evening news. In case you missed it, I just happen to have it for you.
We have arrived, not only at a critical moment in our nation's history, but a significant moment in Toledo's history. A moment when we can, and will, Transform Toledo Together! In fact, the Transformation has already begun!
Today, we are referred to, not only by ABC-TV, but by CNN, the #1 news station in America, as "The Silicon Valley of Solar Energy." A year ago in London, a United Nations committee selected Toledo as one of the "Most Liveable Communities in the World." And, we are referred to by The London Financial Times, arguably the world's most respected daily paper, as a "Top 10 City of the Future."
I am especially proud of that last one, because Toledo is indeed leading Ohio - and perhaps the country - into the future, in one of the future's most important fields - alternative energy.
Toledo is recognized today as one of the world's top producers and researchers of clean, green, renewable, alternative energy.
Local company First Solar produces more solar panels than any other company in America, and in 2009, plans to complete work on a new 500,000 square ft. manufacturing facility - an expansion that is projected to create 134 new high-paying jobs.
Toledo's Xunlight recently doubled its solar panel manufacturing facility in size, and increased its workforce from 20 to 80. In just over a year, this company has received more than $40 million in private investment.
Site Selection magazine recently named Ohio tops in the nation for alternative energy development, with 350 projects - more than any other state in this country.
When candidate Barack Obama visited Toledo on October 13, he announced his plan to create a $150 billion fund solely devoted to alternative energy investment. At that rally, he said, "We'll take a page from Toledo, that's become a leader in solar panel technology." Lt. Governor Lee Fisher also paid us a huge compliment last year when he publicly stated "Toledo is on the cutting edge of alternative energy and technology innovation." We are Transforming Toledo Together!
Later this week, Lt. Governor Fisher, Mayor Frank Jackson of Cleveland and I, accompanied by University officials and our respective staffs, will meet for the second time to plan the formation of an alternative energy corridor, linking Toledo and Cleveland. We met in Cleveland on Oct. 31, and the enthusiasm to join our two cities in an innovative alternative energy corridor, excited all present. What this could lead to is investments by Washington and national foundations of billions of dollars directed to make America energy independent.
The University of Toledo recently invested more than $10 million dollars into its Science and Technology Corridor. The University's Clean and Alternative Energy Incubator continues its reign as one of the world's most progressive renewable energy research centers. In fact, First Solar - America's largest solar cell manufacturer - originated at the University under the watchful eye of Harold McMaster.
The City of Toledo is presently working with several alternative energy and advanced technology companies which show great promise for 2009.
We have been working with a young company from California involved in the solar panel industry. Their new process will reduce the cost of solar panels while making them more efficient. The company is projecting approximately 200 new employees as they move into production.
We have also been actively working with a more established company from Michigan that supplies various items for solar panel manufacturers.
The presence of these companies in Toledo will further strengthen our position as the leader in alternative energy. We are Transforming Toledo Together!
In December of this past year, Suganit Systems was awarded a grant of almost $1 million from the State of Ohio to refine their process of converting yard waste into ethanol. The City of Toledo is preparing to initiate a demonstration project on City vehicles using Suganit System's product. We anticipate that Suganit will open their full-scale facility in 2009, creating up to 100 jobs.
Toledo's auto industry workers will also play a key role in the coming revolution of alternative energy-based Advanced Automotive Manufacturing.
We have two of the country's most modern automotive manufacturing plants in our GM Powertrain, which has had $1 billion invested in it the last two years, and our Chrysler Assembly Plants. Our Jeep campus, in which Chrysler has invested more than $3 billion the last decade, is expected to become the home of the new Jeep EV - one of the world's first mass produced, electric-powered automobiles. The fact that The Harbour Report named our GM and Jeep workers as the two most productive automotive workforces in America helps assure that Toledo's Jeep and GM workers will be at the center of advanced automotive manufacturing. We are Transforming Toledo Together!
While we have made great strides in the area of alternative energy, it is equally important to diversify into other technologies showing great promise, such as advanced materials.
The City of Toledo has been working with a young company from California that has developed a new lightweight alloy with tremendous strength. This new alloy is drawing significant interest from the auto companies and the military. The company is projecting 500 new employees initially, primarily to machine the alloy into finished products.
Toledo's emerging reputation related to advanced technologies, and our longstanding reputation as a top-flight manufacturer, will serve the City well in the coming years.
Last year, Forbes magazine published a feature called "Ohio's Declining Cities," which profiled the slow demise of four cities - Youngstown, Canton, Dayton and Cleveland. I recently spent a weekend in New York City with Steve Forbes, and his large family. Joining several of the nation's Governors and their wives, Amy and I were uplifted by the knowledge and praise the Forbes family had of and for Toledo. This former Presidential candidate also was much aware of our growing reputation as an alternative energy center.
Even with all of the nation's economic challenges, the City concluded 2007 with 81 new development projects moving forward, 1611 new jobs created, and 2854 jobs retained, with a combined capital investment of nearly $407 million dollars. In 2008, 1026 new jobs were created and 2331 jobs retained. We are Transforming Toledo Together!
2009 promises to be a productive year for Toledo economic development.
The initial utility and roadway infrastructure of the $300 million dollar Marina District is in the ground. Stage 1 of vertical development will begin this spring.
The $250 million dollar Warehouse District-Swan Creek Riverwalk project, sponsored by Tetra Tech, is moving forward. Think about that - we live in a city that has two $250+ million development projects moving forward at a time when most American cities are struggling. I praise Larry Dillin and Tetra Tech executives, including Andy Langenderfer, for their commitment to Toledo, and for recognizing what a sound investment our City is, especially along our valuable waterfront.
Come October, we will toast the grand opening of our new sports arena, where two new professional sports leagues will call home. Even with construction of this $115 million dollar project still ongoing, this arena is already becoming a key entertainment destination, with several events already booked, including Disney on Ice and Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey's Circus. The trifecta of 5/3 Field, SeaGate Convention Centre, and the new arena are estimated to bring 2 million visitors annually to Downtown Toledo.
And thanks to many of you, this fall, we will witness the grand reopening of the new Toledo Science Center - formerly known as COSI. Business leadership from Owens Corning, BP Husky, First Solar, KeyBank, and Shumaker Loop & Kendrick - plus others - led to this rebirth of COSI. We are Transforming Toledo Together!
And more jobs are on the way!
One of 2008's key economic successes was retaining HCR ManorCare and its 700 career-level jobs in Toledo. The City of Toledo worked with Governor Ted Strickland, Lt. Governor Lee Fisher, the Port Authority, and company Chairman Paul Ormand to keep HCR ManorCare's world headquarters here in Toledo, and, in the process, outhustled strong competition from Tennessee and other states. This year, ManorCare intends to add 86 new jobs at a new satellite office at One Seagate. And, incidentally, our thanks and gratitude to 5/3rd leaders Bob LaClair and John Szuch for the fluent and important move of their corporate headquarters to One SeaGate.
Another job retention/job gain project of note is the $11.5 million investment in Toledo's Pepsi Cola bottling plant. This retains 250 jobs, creates 25 new jobs, and is one of just three Pepsi plants in the nation selected for expansion.
Just last month, Health Care REIT announced plans to expand its corporate headquarters to the Dana campus on Dorr St, and hire 45 new employees. Many of those new employees, all executives, will be moving here from Nashville. Health Care REIT Chairman, George Chapman, has exciting plans for his new headquarters, across from the historic Inverness Club.
A complete revitalization of the former Owens Corning corporate headquarters, commonly referred to as The Fiberglas Tower, will begin this year, aided by a recent $3 million grant from the Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund. The Eyde Company from Lansing, Michigan will transform this long-dormant building into a mixed-use complex, including a 96-room hotel, office space, condominiums, and restaurants.
Four other examples of reinvestment into existing Downtown buildings are The Triangle Building on Erie Street, The Hannon Block on Monroe Street, the Pizza Papalis project on Monroe next to 5/3 Field, and the former Western Union Building at Jefferson and Huron. All of these are adaptive reuse projects, in formerly vacant building, with a total investment of $60 million dollars. We are Transforming Toledo Together!
Please note, on many of these projects, the State of Ohio has been a willing and generous partner.
Turning to the City's fiscal position, in a year of economic stagnation, the City handled our budget very prudently, and we were rewarded when both Moody's and Standard & Poor raised Toledo's bond rating for the first time in more than 50 years. Many of you have had to adjust and slim your operating budgets in recent years. So have we! And, now, our bond raters have said "Well done" as they boosted Toledo's bond grades.
However, the City's unions must join hands with myself and City Council to responsibly shrink our costs where it can be wisely done. Four-day workweeks are possible, as is greater privatization. These are realistic options.
Remarkably, we have seen our crime rate drop 18% since January 2006 - an incredible reduction for a city our size. I commend and thank Toledo Chief of Police Michael Navarre for his leadership, and the skills of our police officers.
After years of disturbing Toledo census numbers, Toledo partnered with a Washington firm to assist in counting our citizens. We have now identified nearly 22,000 Toledo citizens that had been uncounted by the U.S. Census, raising our population estimate to 316,763 - a figure even higher than our 2000 census count.
This is a very real asset to us, as a City's population is taken into account when applying for Federal and State grants. With President-elect Obama's multi-billion dollar stimulus package soon to be on the way, we want to ensure Toledo gets its fair share, or more.
In 2009, the Toledo region will continue to reign as one of the country's best for higher education opportunities, with more than 193,000 students enrolled at our region's 49 colleges, universities, and trade schools.
The Toledo region ranks second nationally in the number of students pursuing engineering degrees - and the University has grown over the last few years to become the third largest university in the state of Ohio.
Work continues on our Toledo Public Schools "Building For Success" program - a $640 million dollar investment in our children, designed to ensure that our local schools offer the most state-of-the-art educational facilities in the country. We are Transforming Toledo Together!
Our local healthcare industry remains vigorous, providing high-quality medical services to our citizens.
Our 9 area hospitals employ 14,000 workers, and an additional 35,000 jobs are generated indirectly by our local healthcare industry, including laboratories and clinics. Healthcare continues to be Toledo's largest employment sector.
Toledo's art and creative culture will also play a vital role in our City's transformation.
BGSU's Center for Regional Development conducted an Economic Impact Study of the region's creative industries. The study concluded that creative-based organizations generate an annual $2.4 billion dollars in Northwest Ohio, as well as supporting 33,000 jobs.
We also enter 2009 recognizing that we live in an era requiring regional cooperation - and revenue sharing teamwork - between neighboring communities. Last year, the City of Toledo furthered our commitment to a regional-based economy by finalizing Joint Economic Development Districts (JEDD) with both Sylvania and Perrysburg Township.
This year, we expect to enact similar agreements with several neighboring communities including Lake, Troy, Swanton, and Monclova Townships, and the City of Maumee. We are Transforming Toledo Together!
Thanks to our strategic geography, and convergence of major highway, rail, water and air assets, Toledo has emerged as a major logistics and distribution center. I formed the Intermodal Task Force for Transportation and Logistics to capitalize on our location strengths. Now that the Task Force has issued its recommendations, the City, UT, and the Port Authority will be implementing these goals in 2009 to improve and grow our intermodal capabilities.
America is facing its greatest economic challenge since The Great Depression. During those dark days of the 1930s, we showed the world what the true definition of American character is. That is, a land filled with men and women of spunk and determination.
Our passion, and our vision must focus on working for positive change in spite of daunting challenges. And we're doing just that!
Recently, the Governor of this State hosted a meeting for political, education and development leaders in Columbus. He spoke of innovative projects that were leading Ohio into the future. Governor Strickland mentioned each quadrant of the State once, Cincinnati twice, and a 3rd city seven times - praising the projects he was most impressed with. Toledo was the city he referred to seven times. Why is it that ABC News, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The London Financial Times, and the Governor all praise Toledo's transformation - and Toledoans remain our own worst critics?
Or as Jim Blue, TV-24 anchor said, after hearing his Dayton relatives praise Toledo's Transformation, "My in-laws thought Toledo was visionary compared to their hometown."
I am asking you to join in a focused effort to keep our City's attention riveted, with laser-like intensity, on what we can, and must do, to boldly confront the challenges before us - committed always to making a positive difference. That is what genuine leadership is all about - and it is required of us today, as we Transform Toledo Together!
Ladies and Gentlemen of The Rotary Club, the following words can be our rallying cry in Toledo in 2009, as they were our nation's rallying cry in 1933:
" - There is an element in the readjustment of our financial system more important than currency, more important than gold, and that is the confidence of the people. Confidence and courage are the essentials of success in carrying out our plan. You people must have faith; you must not be stampeded by rumors or guesses. Let us unite in banishing fear. We have provided the machinery to restore our financial system; it is up to you to support and make it work. It is your problem no less than it is mine. Together we cannot fail."
That statement was made 76 years ago by Franklin D. Roosevelt. Love him or not, this statement resonates with this moment in our nation's history.
Let us rise up to our maximum courage and ability, and reclaim our belief in ourselves, our country, and our community. We are already at work, Toledo!
May God bless us in our work - and inspire us to believe in ourselves as we Transform Toledo Together!
- Carty Finkbeiner
Source of text: Thurber's Thoughts
Tag Cloud of Speech
Via TagCrowd.com, a visual word frequency list for the top 50 most used words from the speech above.