Heading into 2015, the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority is planning a significant increase in spending on its airport division — largely in the effort to market its underused cargo-handling facility.
The budget adopted at the board’s Dec. 18 meeting shows spending at the airport will rise from $3.9 million in 2014 to $4.4 million in 2015.
Thomas Winston, the port authority’s vice president for administration and chief financial officer, said the port has made the decision to support marketing and utilities costs for the building now used by BX Solutions Inc.
“This is something that our board decided was in the best interests of the organization, to work with them collaboratively to make sure all efforts are taken to give them a competitive advantage,” Mr. Winston said.
BX Solutions is a trucking business aiming to find a niche in ecommerce and “business-to-business” shipping.
The business is using the massive facility the port board constructed to accommodate the air cargo business, which peaked in the late 1990s.
In a 10-3 vote, the port board agreed in August to terms for a facilities and services management agreement with BX Solutions, which moved into part of the port-owned cargo hub after BAX Global Inc., shut down its local operations in September, 2011, but recently scaled back both its operations and work force after losing a major traffic source.
The agreement has BX Solutions continuing to pay the $500,000 annual fee, but with the port authority paying BX $350,000 annually to market the facility for the port. In addition the agreement has the port taking over the cost of utilities to the building, estimated at up to $240,000 a year.
At its peak, BX Solutions employed nearly 600 full-time, part-time, and seasonal workers who handled and sorted packages for Amazon, said Paul Toth, the port authority’s president and chief executive officer.
It now employs about 50 to 60 people after the online retail giant stopped using the facility. BX Solutions now occupies about 3,000 square feet in the 279,000-square-foot hub facility.
The higher budget follows a year in which a local family-owned investment firm tried to buy Toledo Express Airport with the intent of privatizing it, forcing the port authority to defend its stewardship of the airport.
Investment adviser Dock Treece, along with his two sons, launched a quiet effort to convince then-Mayor Mike Bell in 2013 to support a plan to sell the airport to them as a way to generate more economic activity around the western Lucas County airfield.
The effort stalled, then was rejected by incoming Mayor D. Michael Collins. The city of Toledo owns the airport and rents it for $1 a year to the port authority. The port authority argued against the sale, saying that it was making all possible efforts to capitalize on the asset and that selling the airport to a private party could jeopardize its future as home of the Ohio Air National Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing.
When the 2014 budget passed in December, 2013, the airport division was projected to lose about $358,000, According to port authority spokesman Holly Kemler, the airport is $396,000 ahead of budget and is expected to at least break even.
The port authority’s total budget, including the seaport, development and property, and administration is budgeted at $7.95 million in 2015, up from $7.6 million in 2014.
Contact Tom Troy: email@example.com or 419-724-6058 or on Twitter @TomFTroy.
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