Transportation has always played a vital role in the development of the Toledo Region and has a significant annual impact on the Region’s economy. In 1833, when Toledo was founded through the merger of the villages of Port Lawrence and Vistula (both villages were already active ports on the Maumee River at the western end of Lake Erie), Toledo quickly became one of the great transshipping ports on the Great Lakes handling grain, flour, butter, pork and lumber. The first railroad in Ohio, the Erie & Kalamazoo, began service from Toledo in 1836. Additional growth was fostered by the construction of the canals, which linked the Maumee River with Central Indiana’s Wabash River and the Ohio River.
Toledo was a place where all modes of transportation came together to serve the region’s agricultural and manufacturing based economy. Toledo’s rich history in shipbuilding began as early as 1828, starting with schooners and side-wheel steamboats and quickly evolving into constructing steel freighters. For the next 100 years the Port continued to expand and in 1955 construction commenced on the St. Lawrence Seaway, a bi-national waterway connecting world markets to the Great Lakes Region. In June of that year, the Ohio Port Authority Act was adopted and Toledo became the first port authority in the state of Ohio. Under the direction of the Port Authority, many accomplishments were achieved including establishing the eighth Foreign-Trade Zone in the nation in 1961 and becoming the largest coal port in the world handling over 30 million tons annually from 1963 to 1966.
Over the years, the Port Authority dramatically expanded its role in the Toledo Region, taking on the management of additional transportation assets including two airports, a passenger rail station and three downtown parking garages. At the same time, new services and programs were offered by the Port Authority to promote economic development in the Toledo Region such as brownfield redevelopment, innovative financing, energy efficiency improvement, a community economic development grant program, and a program to offer assistance to minority and women-owned contractors. The combination of assets, programs and services makes the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority one of the most diverse and sophisticated port authorities in the nation.
This August marks the 60th anniversary of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority. While much has changed over the past 60 years, the Port Authority continues to hold the same fundamental vision as its founders in 1955. Site development, job creation, port expansion and efficiency in moving people and goods through the region remain top priorities. Maritime activities at the Port of Toledo alone employ over 7,000 people and have an annual economic contribution of over $1 billion to the region.
The Port Authority is continuously investing in the modernization of port facilities. At the Toledo Shipyard, operated by Ironhead Marine, topside and dry dock work is routinely performed on freighters, ferry boats and other vessels. Ironhead’s modern high bay facility was constructed in 2008, along with many other recent improvements, which have allowed the company to provide excellent service to the maritime industry. In 2010, the Port Authority invested over $10 million in new cargo handling equipment at its general cargo facility operated by Midwest Terminals, which included the acquisition of two Liebherr mobile harbor cranes and a Mantsinen material handler. An additional $15 million was invested in a new entrance gate complex, new roadways and improved on-dock rail infrastructure at the facility.
Perhaps the most ambitious and significant development at the Port of Toledo in recent years was the opening of the new Ironville Terminal in March 2014. This 180 acre site, previously used as an oil refinery, was purchased in 2008 and was transformed into a fully operational marine terminal financed with public and private investments. The site is owned by the Port Authority, which has entered into a long-term agreement with Midwest Terminals to manage the port operation. The total project cost was $23 million and provided up to 100,000 man hours of skilled construction labor for the community. Development of the site included the installation of 20,000 linear feet of rail connecting the terminal to Norfolk Southern’s network, dredging and dock wall improvements, and the construction of a multimodal material transfer system and warehouse. The terminal handled over 277,000 tons of material in its inaugural season and is expected to play a key role in the development of new cargo handling opportunities by providing additional capacity and capability.
For 60 years, dedicated staff and board members have worked together with community and government leaders to make the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority the organization it is today. The Port Authority salutes the thousands of customers and stakeholders around the world who have utilized the Port of Toledo’s facilities and services, all of which helps move the Port Authority and its community forward.