Owens-Illinois weighing moving offices from Toledo

City leaders are hoping that glass container maker Owens-Illinois Inc. will consider its long history in the city when deciding whether to move out of its downtown headquarters.

The company that helped give its hometown the "Glass City" nickname is considering relocating to a suburban office park.Chairman and chief executive Steven McCracken said last month that he was leaning toward moving to Perrysburg, a suburb where the company owns land.There was a slight chance the company could move out of the area, McCracken said, but it appeared the choice was between its downtown location along the Maumee River and the suburbs.William Carroll, the city's director of economic and community development, said the city has the riverfront business district and a century of history with Owens-Illinois where the company began.He has told the company's leader that new developments are coming on both sides of the river."I can see what's going to go on around it, all the changes on the river that we want their employees to share," Carroll said.

Toledo city officials have offered an estimated $8 million package that includes reduced-price parking for company employees. Some employees indicated that free parking was one reason they favored a move to the suburbs.

Toledo Mayor Jack Ford said the city is willing to work with the company. "We will entertain any reasonable suggestion they have that will make it more palatable to stay in the downtown," he said.

Toledo has a long association with glass manufacturing that began with Edward Drummond Libbey who in 1888 started the Libbey Glass Co. The city last became home to Owens Corning and Libbey-Owens-Ford Co.

Perrysburg City Council decided Tuesday to offer an incentive package worth about $1.9 million to Owens-Illinois, including a 15-year tax exemption on new construction.

"Our offer may look small when you compare it to Toledo's, but we are offering some things that there's no price attached to," said Perrysburg councilman John Kevern.

Ford has called his city's offer generous. Losing a Fortune 500 firm would be a blow to the city's downtown, which has had high office vacancy rates in recent years.

The company's property tax bill for the first six months of last year was $1.6 million, although the company is disputing that amount.

Owens-Illinois is the largest manufacturer of glass containers in North America and South America, and it employs 340 at its 32-story headquarters, the city's tallest building. Its lease downtown expires in September 2006.

The company once had 2,200 employees and took up most of the office space in the blue-glass building. Since then, it has sold many of its businesses and now occupies just eight floors.

The company has said that if it stays downtown, it will need to renovate and condense its office space. The city has pledged to pay for some renovations.

600450 Owens-Illinois weighing moving offices from Toledo glassonweb.com

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