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PARTA, City, Kent State Officials Thank Sen. Brown for Redevelopment Support

Sen. Sherrod Brown toured several of downtown Kent's redevelopment projects Wednesday

Sen. Sherrod Brown got the Cliffs Notes version of Kent's revival Wednesday as city and Kent State University officials gave him a brief tour of three of the downtown redevelopment projects.

Brown first met with Kent Mayor Jerry Fiala, Kent City Manager Dave Ruller, Kent State President Lester Lefton and AMETEK Kent Vice President Matt French at AMETEK's new offices downtown before touring the Kent State hotel and PARTA's transit center.

Brown, whose wife, Connie Schultz, graduated from Kent State, said he found Wednesday's visit and brief tour exciting given all the dramatic changes in the past two years.

"I’ve been to Kent lots of times over the last 30 years, seeing the problems and seeing it coming back," Brown said. "This is a great picture for Kent. You’re finally seeing, I think, the university and city coming together in more productive ways than in the past."

The Democratic senator supported the effort that helped PARTA receive a $20 million federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant that is paying for the bulk of the transit center, which will include 10 bus bays and more than 300 public parking spaces.

The Kent State hotel also benefitted from $8 million in New Markets Tax Credits, a federal program enacted by Congress in 2000 and intended to create jobs in low-income communities. Brown voted to extend the tax credit program into 2013 this month as part of the Fiscal Cliff deal.

Both the transit center and hotel are viewed as critical elements of downtown Kent's redevelopment that are spurring new business and job growth.

Brown said Kent stands as an example of how federal stimulus dollars can work to create jobs and boost local economies.

"It’s always part of a larger picture, just like the TIGER Grant that we got back in 2009 for PARTA," he said. "The department of transportation never would have approved it if it was just about transportation."

During the visit, Brown quizzed local leaders and business executives on everything from the number of Kent State grads who work at AMETEK to the room rate at the new hotel, which will average about $105 per night.

Kent City Manager Dave Ruller said he viewed the visit as a chance to both thank Brown for supporting Kent and to encourage the senator to continue that support in the future.

"It’s taking the time to actually show him the results of kind of the paper work that he hears about and he votes for," Ruller said. "He actually gets to see the bricks and mortar."

Kent Mayor Jerry Fiala said he is hopeful Brown will return to Washington, D.C., with a greater sense of the importance of federal programs that help boost local economies.

"He needs to know when he goes back to Washington some of the programs that are in jeopardy that we depend on here to make development like this happen have to stay in place, and we have to find a way to keep funding them," Fiala said. "The bottom line is jobs. If we don’t have jobs paying income taxes there’s a lot of stuff that’s going to go away."

skokisok January 17, 2013 at 11:56 AM
Why not thank the taxpayers instead, that is where the money all comes from. Politicians always mention grants, credits, and federal or state funding, as if they just materialize out of thin air, but the taxpayer is always left to pay the bills while the politicos pat each other on the back.
Chris (Kit) Myers January 17, 2013 at 01:27 PM
skokisok, you are so correct! The federal government has to borrow money to make these grants possible. I guess that I am old and losing what marbles I ever had, but I think Brown, Ruller, Fiala, and everyone else who thinks this is so great should take a look at what they are doing here. They are saddling future generations of taxpayers with this debt. It's like someone gone wild with a credit card with their unborn grandchildren getting stuck with the bill. It's the new American way...
Jim Williams January 17, 2013 at 05:36 PM
Kit, I'm gonna go out on a limb here, and guess that you, like me, are a "boomer." We grew up in an age where citizens actually applauded civic investments like Universities, police and fire stations, sewers, parking decks, etc., and understood that government played an essential role in building communities through grants, loans and straight-up funding of such projects. Our parents "borrowed" and "saddled future generations" with such debt, and we are better for it. Now that our generation is being asked the same, we sound like selfish, spoiled children. Why is it different? Because now it's "our money?" I call BS. Kent is a better city for these investments, and your properties have all benefitted from them as well. Shouldn't you, and all of us, be asked to help support making things like this happen? When did our society turn on itself in an "I got mine" philosophy, instead of pulling together?

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