Community Receives Federal Funding for Economic Development Planning and Gets More Information About DHL Deal
By Congressman Mike Tunrer
Our region recently received the welcome news that the U.S. Department of Commerce will award a $150,000 economic development grant to help our region develop a plan to find new uses for the Wilmington Airpark. The grant is the result of the continued efforts of the Ohio congressional delegation, and state and local officials working together to respond to the proposed deal between UPS and DHL that could result in the loss of more than 8,000 jobs in Ohio.
While our community has been unified in trying to stop the deal, we have also worked hard to prepare ourselves for a period of economic transition. Because of this, I worked with the Joint Economic Task Force to bring Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Sandy Baruah to our region. During his visit, Assistant Secretary Baruah committed to providing our region the assistance and funding we need to develop and implement an economic recovery plan. Last week we received the news that the City of Wilmington and Clinton and Highland Counties will share funding to hire staff and develop a plan to find new uses for the Wilmington Airpark.
Since DHL announced their proposed deal with UPS, there has been a great deal of speculation about what the deal could mean to both companies, to the shipping industry, and what the impact could be for our local and state economy. Because of the seriousness of these issues, I joined with my colleagues in the Ohio Delegation to request Congressional hearings. During these hearings, DHL and UPS executives were asked tough questions by Members of Congress and our community was given a forum to offer our perspective.
I had the opportunity to testify at both the House Judiciary Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearings along with Wilmington Mayor David Raizk, Lt. Governor Lee Fisher, and representatives of the Air Line Pilots Association and the Teamsters. Many of us who testified told the committee just how serious the loss of the over 8,000 jobs at the Wilmington Airpark would be to our community, and reiterated the importance of the federal scrutiny of this proposed transaction.
One of the most frustrating aspects of our current situation has been the reluctance and inability of DHL to engage our community in a dialogue about this process and what it could mean. These hearings allowed us to get firsthand information from the two companies and many members of our community used this opportunity to submit to me questions they would like to see DHL and UPS answer. These questions were then submitted to the committee so they would be available to Members of Congress when they spoke to witnesses during the Committee hearing.
These hearings allowed us to remind the committees of the history of DHL in acquiring other companies. I told the committee that just five years ago we had five major carriers operating successfully in this region. Now, if this deal goes through, we would be down to only two. I also noted to the committee that, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, UPS is currently in the middle of a deal to acquire TNT, a major European shipping company. When looked at together, it becomes clear that all of these deals could be precursors to an outright merger that would create a duopoly in the world shipping markets.
Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers expressed his concerns about the proposed deal during the hearing and asked both companies to suspend the transaction while more information is gathered. Chairman Conyers also indicated his support for holding more hearings which represents another opportunity for close examination of this deal and also represents a significant victory for Southwest Ohio.
It is still too soon to know whether or not the deal between DHL and UPS can be stopped. If it is possible to stop it, however, our region and our government are taking the necessary steps to do so. I am committed to making sure we have all the federal resources we need to continue developing a strong and prosperous economy for Southwest Ohio. If DHL does leave, we are beginning to plan our future. Working together as a community we will rebuild our local economy.