Keeping the Cleveland's port infrastructure in good condition is key to the economic vitality of Cuyahoga County and Northeast Ohio, said Port CEO William Friedman.
That's why Friedman wants county voters to approve Issue 108, a .67 mill tax levy to help the port improve the maritime infrastructure along Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River.
The levy, which includes renewal of previously passed levy money and a new tax increase, would bring in about $90 million over five years. The cost of the levy on property owners would be about $20 per year for every $100,000 in home value.
The taxes would be first collected in 2014.
Friedman said that nearly 18,000 jobs and $1 billion in payroll depend on the waterways and that the region can't afford to lose that economic engine.
"If we don’t make some investments in that infrastructure, it's going to collapse into itself and won’t be open for shipping anymore," Friedman said. "Everyone in our county should be concerned about that."
The money will not be used to fund existing day-to-day operations but will be leveraged on projects to make the port, and the rest of Northeast Ohio, more competitive, Friedman said.
The port authority would use the local money as a match to seek state and federal dollars for its planned infrastructure improvements, including restoring the shipping channel, improving access and environmental conditions in the Flats and use levy dollars for the lakefront multi-modal project, considered by local leaders as a key to redevelopment of the lakefront.
"It’s all about competitiveness," he said. "It's about doing our part to help greater Cleveland compete for private investment, for jobs and funds available for projects. It's to help us project an image that we are really a city on the comeback."
Friedman said he believes county voters have a good understanding of how important the port is to the economic success of the region, including the suburban communities.
"Whether you live downtown or a suburban community, you are impacted," he said. "I think people intuitively understand that."