Plans to redevelop the Ford assembly plant in Lorain that closed a year ago could eventually bring as many as 2,000 new jobs to the city, according to the site's new owner. City officials are giving the California company a very warm welcome to the neighborhood. ideastream's Bill Rice reports.
Things have been looking up for Lorain Mayor Craig Foltin since the disappointment of defeat in his run for Congress in November. Early this week, news broke publicly that the Ford Assembly Plant had been sold. Yesterday, with TV cameras rolling and other local local politicians and businesspeople looking on, Foltin called the sale symbolic.
Craig Foltin: It symbolizes that Lorain has officially turned the corner and is on the road to recovery.
Not all the news in Lorain has been bad, Foltin said, ticking off a dozen or so small successes: a reduced deficit, development on the lakefront, recent upticks in population and income tax revenues. But, he said:
Craig Foltin: We could not have officially proclaimed Lorain's renaissance with the Ford plant abandoned with 225 acres and 4.1 million square feet of building space sitting there vacant.
The buyer - Industrial Realty Group of California - is one of the largest industrial redevelopment companies in the country. It's redeveloped several sites in Northeast Ohio, including a Goodrich tire plant in Akron and a Caterpillar plant in Mentor. President Stuart Lichter echoed Foltin's contention that shuttered auto plants typically languish for years - even decades - and he praised Ford's willingness to move fast on the deal. He said Ohio as a place to do business is, in his opinion, undersold.
Stuart Lichter: For all the reputation for the state being a difficult place to do business, we have an easy time selling Ohio, selling Northeast Ohio and bringing companies in.
After the formalities were over, Lichter elaborated on that view, countering the often-heard complaint that Ohio taxes chase away businesses.
Stuart Lichter: I don't think that the tax burdens in Ohio are oppressive as compared to many of the other states that we deal in. Basically the real estate taxes are pretty good, the government incentives are pretty good, so Ohio is competitive.
Mayor Craig Foltin says a combination of grants, tax incentives, state environmental clean-up funds, and low interest loans for tenants helped make the deal attractive to IRG. The company has reportedly paid $2.4 million for the property - about ten percent of its appraised value before Ford shut its doors.