Sen. Brown hears Ottawa County concerns

OAK HARBOR U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown was on hand Friday afternoon to answer questions from Ottawa Coun
May 24, 2010



U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown was on hand Friday afternoon to answer questions from Ottawa Countyofficials.

Questions revolved aroundeconomic development andalternative energy.

Brown said he wanted to visit Ottawa County and plans to visit several other counties in Ohio to address any issues they might face.

"The reason I convened this small group was to tell me what Ohio needs to happen," Brown said. "That's why each of you was invited."

Economic development has been a hot issue for Ottawa County and the rest of Northwest Ohio with the loss of manufacturing jobs.

Port Clinton Mayor Debbie Hymore-Tester said the city needs a lot of help in terms of infrastructure, an aging population and a decreasing tax base.

Port Clinton voters and officials recently approved the zoning of a waterfront development project, which would ideally make the community's tourism season a year-round affair.

The tourism industry has recently emerged as a major contender in Ottawa County, accounting for nearly $56 million spent by visitors, Ottawa County Visitor's Bureau Executive Director Larry Fletcher said.

"I think it will be infectious and a magnet to draw other industries," Fletcher said.

Brown also said Ottawa County seems to have a lot of interest in alternative energy, especially wind turbines.

James McKinney, owner of Lake Erie Business Park, said he is trying to position his company for wind opportunities, but is waiting on Ohio to encourage alternative energy.

"We at the park are poised for opportunity and manufacturing," he said. "We want business that creates jobs for obvious reasons, creating opportunities for the future."

Brown said it's a matter of getting through the red tape.

Chris Malfara, of The Citizens Banking Co., said Ottawa County needs to learn how to blend the tourism industry with traditional manufacturing.

County Commissioner Jim Sass said it was important for Brown to get a sense of the"grass root level."

"I think it's incredible and I'm very appreciative of him coming out here and doing this," Sass said. "There's no question that he was sincere."