Metro Toledo ranked No. 1 for environmental sustainability

·4 min read

Jul. 11—Metro Toledo has been ranked No. 1 in a national publication's 2021 rankings for efforts aimed at improving business culture by promoting more environmental sustainability.

In rankings announced earlier this month by Site Selection, a magazine targeted toward corporations and government economic-development and investment-promotion agencies since it began publication in 1954, Toledo edged out Grand Rapids, Mich., and Cincinnati for the top spot. Other metro regions in the Top 10 included Des Moines, Boston, Lansing, Mich., Dallas, Indianapolis, Chicago, and Greenville, S.C.

The rankings go beyond the cosmetic, Adam Bruns, Site Selection's managing editor, said in a prepared statement issued July 1.

"We don't just count solar farms, but the locations and expansions of the plants that build solar modules," Mr. Bruns said. "We tally up those gleaming LEED-certified buildings, but we also add up brownfield-redevelopment funding that's turning homely plots of poisoned land into usable, livable property.

"And in addition to renewable energy metrics, we cross-reference our corporate facility investments database with deep research into companies' corporate social responsibility profiles from our friends at CSRHub to see where high-CSR firms have the most presence," he said.

The news was enthusiastically greeted by several area public officials.

"I am so thrilled," Lucas County Commission President Tina Skeldon Wozniak said. "It shows we're working harder to become a better place to live, work, and play."

She called the recognition "a perfect tie-in for us wanting to get businesses here."

"People look for walkable communities. They look at our interest to have solar and wind and parks within five miles of every home," Ms. Skeldon Wozniak said. "It will help draw young people and millennials. It's a perfect tie-in for building an economy and being responsive to your environment."

She said it is "more important than ever to take steps toward a more sustainable future," given the increased heat, flooding, and extreme weather conditions brought on by climate change, and the toxic algal blooms in western Lake Erie each summer.

"Economic prosperity and good jobs are compatible with environmental stewardship," Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken said.

Commissioner Gary Byers agreed.

"The Toledo region has abundant natural features that set us apart," Mr. Byers said. "The fact that Site Selection has recognized our efforts to showcase and protect these assets while also being strongly focused on economic growth is extremely gratifying and is a testament to the cooperation that has brought us to this moment."

In a joint statement, the three commissioners recognized area businesses' growing trend toward using clean energy and promoting a greener economy, including efforts by solar-manufacturing giant First Solar.

"Among the elements that set Greater Toledo apart for 2021 are First Solar's announcement that it would expand its Perrysburg solar module manufacturing campus that will increase its total annual capacity to 6 gigawatts, making it the leading solar manufacturing complex in the western world," they said.

Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz was likewise thrilled by the recognition, which he said also was made possible by business partners such as Jeep and Cleveland-Cliffs.

"It proves that being good to the Earth is also good business, that they are not mutually exclusive," Mr. Kapszukiewicz said.

The way of the future is more businesses embracing smart technology and green technology while reducing their carbon footprints, he said.

"It defeats the myth you have to choose between business and the environment," Mr. Kapszukiewicz said.

Both he and Commissioner Gerken pointed out this as the latest of several times Site Selection magazine has recognized Toledo and Lucas County for their efforts.

The region also has been considered for years as one of the most lucrative for new business locations, earning first place for mid-sized metropolitan areas in the magazine's annual Governor's Cup rankings earlier this year.

Melissa Greene Hopfer, Toledo-Lucas County Sustainability Commission director, said she's pleased by the "holistic" criteria Site Selection uses, going well beyond an examination of local ordinances and other paperwork.

The local sustainability commission was created in 2009 to do exactly what the region is being recognized for now, Ms. Skeldon Wozniak said.

In its article announcing the winners, Site Selection also gave kudos to the commission for Toledo-Lucas County's newly launched online Green Map, which the publication said is designed "to connect people to sustainable assets to improve their social, economic, and physical well-being."

Ms. Hopfer added Owens-Corning to the list of Toledo-based corporations with a reputation for acting responsibly.

"I think Site Selection magazine was looking at it more in a holistic way," she said. "I think a lot of businesses are finding out it's just good business."

In an interview earlier this year, Mayor Kapszukiewicz said Site Selection magazine "is the absolute gold standard when it comes to economic development rankings," and said it is "the Bible that businesses look at when they decide where to spend their money and where to invest."

Site Selection is owned by Atlanta-based Conway Data, Inc., which also publishes the Conway Analytics Report and a family of online industry newsletters.

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