Thomas Winston ’92, a visionary authority
In parts of Ohio that rely on manufacturing as the main source of revenue, recovery from the Great Recession of 2008 has been slow. A 2011 report by IHS Global Insight, an economics consulting firm, noted that at least four Ohio cities — Canton, Dayton, Toledo, and Youngstown — are not expected to be fully recovered until 2021 or later.
However, in Northwest Ohio, the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority might have a hand in addressing this forecast, thanks in part to the vision of the port authority’s new president and CEO, Thomas Winston ’92.
“The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority has a critical and unique role in driving economic development not only in Northwest Ohio but also throughout the state of Ohio,” says Winston.
His bold efforts rely on the port authority’s unique responsibilities in order to advance economic opportunities in the Toledo area. While most port authorities focus on infrastructure development, the Toledo- Lucas County Port Authority’s reach spans from overseeing maritime activity of the largest inland port on the Great Lakes and managing two area airports, to serving as an innovative financing arm to support large-scale development as well as residential and commercial energy-efficiency projects. The port issues development revenue bonds and has a bond fund portfolio of approximately $100 million.
When Winston first joined the port authority as vice president and chief financial officer in 2010, he leveraged his past corporate experience as a way to support the vision for improving the area economy. At that time, the port authority purchased an abandoned, 80- acre industrial site — once home to the Toledo Jeep plant — with the goal of developing it into an innovative business park. That effort meant deploying millions of dollars in site remediation work. “The strategic decision was made to construct a ‘spec’ building with the purpose of attracting industrial firms looking for a viable home to purchase or lease the facility, with the intention of bringing manufacturing jobs back to the area,” he says.
Located near two major interstate highways, two active rail lines, and a strong manufacturing workforce, “the possibilities were set,” he says. Today the site, now called Overland Industrial Park, is thriving with four operating businesses, and Winston expects to see 1,500 jobs at the park by the third quarter of 2020.
“Those are the types of things that I think are exciting,” he says.
“The next challenge is how long [economic growth] is going to be sustained,” Winston adds. “People are wondering about whether or not another recession may be forthcoming in the next couple of years, so it’s really that challenge of looking for new job creation opportunities that will foster positive and sustainable economic conditions throughout the Northwest Ohio region.”
Service as leadership
For Winston, leadership has been a natural part of his life. After graduating from Ohio Wesleyan with a bachelor’s in philosophy and economics, he returned to his hometown of Chicago to earn an MBA from Loyola University Chicago.
He went on to serve in a number of financial leadership positions over the following years, including with Owens Corning in Toledo, before joining the port authority as vice president and chief financial officer.
Winston also has become a community leader in the area. He serves on the board of trustees for ProMedica Health System, Imagination Station (Toledo science museum), Boys & Girls Club of Toledo, Toledo Opera Association, and the Toledo Museum of Art.
“Community service is something I prioritized as a proud student and graduate of Ohio Wesleyan — the need and responsibility to give back and be a contributor to society, and specifically, your local community,” he says.
“I think that is part of our responsibility as leaders.”
By Maddie Marusek ’22