Monday, August 27, 2012


UPDATE:  1:00 PM

With regard to Stark County Recorder Rick Campbell's letter to Doug Thorn of the Stark County auditor's office regarding increased revenues from the recorder's operations and on interest generated by the treasurer's office, Stark County Auditor Alan Harold had this comment on the numbers proffered by Campbell:
Of note in today's blog on various county revenues:  the Trust Fund & Escrow Accounts do not impact our ability to spend.  On these dollars, the county is custodian.  While the increases reflect greater activity (trust fund) and general efficiency (escrow accounts), it does not translate into more money to spend. 
On the Recorder fees & Treasurer's interest - the former is activity related and, as you know from attending the monthly finance work sessions, we've been tracking the favorable variance here for some time.  On the latter, we'd be plugging along toward our $900K but for a bondthat was called last month.  As both the Treasurer and I have stated, the bonds being called is a big problem.  The investor refinances the higher yield bond, returns the principal to us, and then what?  We're stuck with the lower yield bonds.  All the "bump" in interest incomedoes now is lower our forecast for future years. 
And basically on the $1.39MM loss in revenue from property tax - it's a good thing we've trended nicely in sales tax.  It would appear every bit over the $11MM we projected for this half is easily gobbled up by the loss in property tax revenue.  We knew this was coming and our internal2013 projections have reflected this for sometime. 

UPDATE:  10:15 AM

Stark County could use a Michael Bell, mayor of Toledo (LINK)..  He demonstrates leadership qualities and style like the SCPR thinks Stark County needs.   Can Leadership Stark County produce a Michael Bell?

What follows is an excerpt on Bell from The Economist magazine (August 25, 2012, Working partners - Unexpected co-operation, and investment, beside the Maumee river):

TOLEDO, Ohio, could be any struggling city in America’s rust belt. The view from the offices of the mayor, Michael Bell, takes in a clutch of grey skyscrapers, a minor-league baseball field (home of the Toledo Mud Hens), grain silos, strangely empty streets and, in the distance, a petrol refinery. Yet the mayor has something new to show visitors. The skyscraper to his right, housing a business hotel, now belongs to Chinese investors. In 2011 another Chinese group spent $2.15m on a restaurant complex beside the Maumee river, then a further $3.8m on waterfront land euphemistically dubbed the “Marina District”, once home to a power station. Just out of view is the site of what regional development officials say will be, by year’s end, a new Chinese-owned metalworking plant worth tens of millions of dollars.

It is early days yet. But Mr Bell—a brawny former city fire chief who won office in 2009 as an independent—has a plan to revive his city of 290,000 people. Just as Japanese manufacturers saw advantage in moving chunks of production to America from the 1970s on, Mr Bell believes that Chinese businesses are ready to seek sites in America, as rising global transport costs outweigh the benefits of cheap labour. He sees no reason why Toledo should not be on their list. He has made three official trips to China. In September some 200 mostly Chinese businessmen are due in Toledo for a conference on operating in America. Selling his city abroad was chastening, the mayor says: most Chinese had never heard of it. But as he talked, they would “whip out their smartphones” and check what he was telling them: that it lies on the Great Lakes, where major interstate highways cross; is cheaper than Chicago; is home to skilled car- and glassmakers, solar-panel firms and an under-used airport; and they would go “Aha”.


Last week the Stark County commissioners listened to (at their Monday and Tuesday work sessions) two of the three most promising Stark County entities in terms of getting Stark up and moving again as a thriving, accelerating economic development community.

First up was the Stark County Convention and Visitors Bureau (SCC&VB), a division of the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce (WEB LINK).

Executive Director John Kiste (on Monday) made the following points (see video below) about the efforts of his organization (which is almost completely supported by a countywide lodging tax paid by Stark's motels/hotels) to increase economic value coming into Stark:

  • 2013 is the 50th anniversary of the start of the Professional Football Hall of Fame and that the SCC&VB will be making a special effort to promote the Hall of Fame.  Perhaps 2013 will bring "a game from some people close by," (Cleveland/Pittsburgh?),
  • The lodging tax (at 3% countywide generated a little over $1 million last year [up about $115,000 this year so far] on which the operations of the SCC&VB are financed) is producing more than budgeted
  • Gervasi Vineyard is doing quite well (adding on) which bodes well for the lodging tax from the villas,
  • The success of the Canton Marathon ("at least a million dollar [economic] impact,"
  • "For the first time ever {Stark County] broke $1 billion in direct and indirect sales in travel and tourism in Stark County,"
  • About 3 million people a year are coming to Stark County for travel and tourism each year,
  • That the growth of the oil and gas industry are helping pump up the travel and tourism factor,
  •  In Plain Township and the Jackson-Belden areas, Stark County has seen a 90% occupancy rate over the past few months which Kiste seemingly ties to the influx of oil and gas personnel into Stark County,
  • The Akron-Canton Airport is growing at fast pace as is the SCC&VB presence at the airport,
  • The OHSAA swimming championships will be in Canton through 2017 and there is hope that the football championships (about a $4 million economic impact on Stark County) will remain beyond the current 2015 time frame,
  • Bringing the  NCAA Division III championship game (a mainstay of the The University of Mount Union) to Canton is a project being worked on by the SCC&VB,
  • Stark County is limited to hosting events that max out about 1,000 attendees, and
  • Stark County is on tap to have an even better year in terms of travel and tourism in 2013 as compared to 2012.

    Next up was  was Steve Paquette president of the Stark Development Board ("SDB" LINK - Tuesday).  The SDB is 27 years old and operates under three year budgeting cycles.  Paquette et al are currently putting together a $1.8 million capital investment program for Stark County.  Paquette also made some interesting points (see video below).

    • The Timken Company remains as the foremost and ongoing economic development project for Stark County,
    • The nation and Stark County is experiencing a jobless recovery,
    • There has been a dramatic slowdown in the last three months or so which Paquette nominates as the "pre-election jitters,"
    • Fuel cell development continues to be a exciting prospect for Stark County economic development with the prospect that lead partner LG (a South Korean company) will be developing a commercial application within the next four years,
    • The SDB put together a committee on the Utica shale question on being approached by Chesapeake Energy for support. The primary question for the committee was whether or not fracking could be done safely in terms of environmental concerns.  The conclusion (LINK) of the committee was that fracking is safe in Stark County in the context that should there be an accident, systems are in place to mitigate any damages that might flow therefrom.
    • The focus of the SDB as fracking grows in Stark County is:
      • to try to attract businesses which manufacture fracking industry equipment to consider Stark County as a site to relocate/expand, and
      • to identify industries that "low cost natural gas" would be a lure for them wanting to locate in Stark County,
    • It was the STB which recommended to Chesapeake that it headquarter in Louisville for its Stark County operations,
    • The Baker Hughes oil servicing project for Massillon is about to be finalized,
    • The SDB is in the process of building up a capital investment "venture capital fund" (The Angel Fund) with the hope that it can attract a one-to-one match from Ohio's Third Frontier with the object of creating a $1.4 fund,
    • The SDB is continue to explore opportunities to develop oil shale industry related jobs,
    • A fund (in addition to The Angel Fund) is being developed to infuse relatively small amounts of capital into area business,
    • The SDB will continue to pay attention to existing Stark County businesses and fuel opportunities for growth with them,
    • Trying to work on a Stark County plan that is consistent with a regional economical development plan for all of northeast Ohio, and
    • Paquette requested that now that the Stark County sales tax has passed that the commissioners consider funding the SDB as it has in the past (e.g. $100,000); a pittance when measured against the estimated $1 million that SDB has helped raise in tax revenue for Stark County government going back to July 2009.

    In a future work session, the commissioners need to have Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce (sponsors of Government Academy and Signature Program of Leadership Stark County) to come before them to spell out the contributions that they believe Leadership Stark County is making in putting Stark County on a path to become "a thriving, accelerating economic development community destined ultimately for greatness.

    From the Stark County Political Report's perspective, important as they are (i.e. the Stark Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Stark Development Board and Leadership Stark County), the key for getting Stark County moving towards a modicum of economic development "greatness" will be determined by the quality of who sits in the chairs of the Stark County commissioners.

    It was therapeutic for Stark County government for Janet Creighton and Tom Bernabei to have been elected to commissioner posts in 2010.

    The county had been rocked by the Vince Frustaci (former chief deputy of the Stark County treasury) theft of several million dollars from the county treasury and a concomitant loss of confidence by the Stark County public in the vigilance of county leadership figures to have prevented such a loss from having taken place.

    Bernabei and Creighton deserve credit (along with Stark County Treasurer Alex Zumbar and Stark County Auditor Alan Harold) with having restored the public's confidence in county official leadership.  Such was evidenced by the voting public's willingness to pass a 0.5% sales tax increase (over eight years) by a comfortable margin last November.

    Now that public confidence in the integrity of Stark County government is on the upswing, it is time for the commissioners to focus their attention to other matters.

    As far as the SCPR is concerned, their overwhelming priority needs to be directed towards pushing Stark County to economic/financial greatness.

    The question is:  Whether or not Bernabei, Creighton (as sitting commissioners) and whomever among candidates Regula (Republican - Bethlehem Township) and Bill Smuckler (Democrat - Canton) are up to such a task.

    By under-asking on Issue 29, Bernabei and Creighton have put the commissioners in a difficult position.  The 0.5% is just enough to tread water over the next eight years on day-to-day county operations.

    Already Stark County prosecutor John Ferrero and Stark County recorder Rick Campbell are putting pressure on to up the ante on what they are getting from the county general fund.  The initial step on their question is to prod the county auditor via Stark County Budget Commission sessions to ramp up the certification of funds available for the commissioners to allocate to the various departments of county government.

    Campbell in writing  asks (as a prelude, the SCPR believes, to requesting more money for his office and to John Ferrero's office) for additional certification of nearly $1,500,000.   Campbell based his request on the following projected increases in revenues in his operations as well as a higher projection by Stark County Treasurer Alex Zumbar on increased interest collections in 2012 over what Zumbar originally projected.

    Campbell's move is evidence that there is no "surplus money" for the commissioners to apply to aggressive economic development projects.

    Campbell fails to mention that Stark County government is set to lose $1.39 million in real estate tax revenues due to the state required "every six years appraisal" of all county-sited properties that the Stark County auditor's office recently completed.

    Looks like to the SCPR that the gains predicted through his "diligent tracking and calculating" (Campbell's words) may be a wash in the light of the contemplated real estate property tax losses.


    The real point of this blog is that Stark County desperately needs an economic development resurgence but is apparently without resources to jumpstart such an effort.

    Moreover, it was discouraging to hear from a source last week that neither Richard Regula nor Bill Smuckler are likely to be full time commissioners.  Regula works for Mercy Medical Center and Smuckler has a restaurant supply business he tends to.  It is important that the new commissioner apply his efforts to find ways and means to get the county moving towards an economic resurgence.

    When Todd Bosley was elected in 2006, such was a promise he made.

    From a Laurie Huffman piece (The Alliance Review - November 8, 2006):

    "If I do win, I will set out to fulfill all the promises I have made during my campaign and to make Stark County a better place to live."

    Jobs -- creating jobs and retaining and attracting businesses in Stark County -- was one of the campaign issues on which Bosley challenged Regula.

    Regula tells The Report that he is big on infrastructure repair and development.  Of course, he was commissioner from 2003 through 2006 (defeated by Bosley) and didn't produce much, if anything, on infrastructure improvement then.  What is going to be different this time around?

    Smuckler's big thing is merger and consolidation of local government services across Stark County.

    However, according to one county official, Smuckler has not succeeded in putting one single merger/consolidation together despite being Stark County's leading advocate in that regard for the better part of 20 years.  To this official, Smuckler's long-term advocacy is just "so much talk."

    So The Report is skeptical that either will add much to the vigor and vitality of Stark County's economic development effort.

    Preliminary to John Kiste's remarks to the commissioners, yours truly engaged in a little repartee with him about the waste that the Stark County fairgrounds is going to.

    The Report made reference to Elizabeth Burick's (as Tom Harmon's [a former Stark County commissioner]) effort to have local movers and shakers get behind building a horse show arena at the fairgrounds as being the right kind of idea but way too microscopic in scope.

    If Stark County had any visionary leadership, they could take the Burick/Harmon idea and expand it into a Clark County plus type project that could be a draw to bump up the number of folks coming to Canton and Stark County big time virtually year around bringing millions of dollars and a significant number of new jobs into our local economy.

    To finance such a macroeconomic project, it would take some creativeness that appears to be nonexistent in Stark County leadership circles.

    Meanwhile this valuable asset located in the heart of Canton atrophies.

    Stark's inability to devise a Clark County-like plan and come up with the necessary financing in indicative of a county that is nearly devoid of leadership with a vision and a "we can get this done" attitude whether it is a fairgrounds project or any other project.

    The Report believes, for instance, that Canton's Mayor Healy's "the Utica Capital" is in the "so much talk" category.  Oh, it might produce some benefit for the city and county. but it is appearing more and more that the significance of fracking for oil/natural gas to the advancement of the county economy may be a bit overblown.  The focus on fracking as some sort of panacea says more to The Report that it is seemingly the only game in town than it has real promise to pull Stark County out of the economic development dark ages.

    On August 14th, the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce held a meeting at Innis Maggorie's offices involving Healy, Commissioner Tom Bernabei, Stark State president Para Jones, Innis Maggorie officials and Chamber officials "to [develope] a communications plan to guide ... efforts to market the greater Canton area as the ideal location for companies coming to capitalize on the region's shale oil and gas."

    Moreover, the letter of invitation held out that "[a] successful market campaign could create economic benefits for the entire region ... ."

    We shall see.

    There is no doubt about it.  Stark County's future economic development (notwithstanding what John Kiste and Steve Paquette say) plans are nowhere near where they need to be if the county is going to achieve any semblance of greatness anytime in the foreseeable future.

    Stark is spending less than $2 million annually on economic development projects.

    Pathetic, simply pathetic!

    In real estate the truism is:  location. location, location.

    In economic development the truism is:  leadership, leadership, leadership!

    In Stark County, where is the leadership going to come from?

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