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Monday, September 17, 2007

Ohio Bond Rating Goof Exposed: Bowling Green Campus Moved To Toledo

TOLEDO (TDB) -- Fitch Ratings has assigned an "AA- rating" to $11.7 million in bonds Lucas County plans to sell later this month to refinance debt on a juvenile justice center. Fitch came up with the positive creditworthiness rating in part because of the county's "diversified" economy, which it reported includes 5,400 employees at Bowling Green State University. Based on that statement, investors may want to scratch their heads before buying any bonds.

Why? Because BGSU's campus is located in neighboring Wood County in the city of Bowling Green. And at last count, the state university said it had about 4,619 full and part-time employees, a number that includes 1,174 graduate assistants who are working their way through classes. That is signifcantly short of 5,400. Another seeming flaw in the bond rating report: Fitch fails to mention that the University of Toledo is in Lucas County. Maybe it has the two state schools confused -- a possibility that could suggest other data in the rating report has errors. The complete text of the Lucas County bond rating issued today in Chicago is here.

Overall, Fitch says Lucas County has "conservative budgeting practices" and a diversifying economy.

"Located in northwestern Ohio, Lucas County ranks as the sixth largest county in the state in terms of population and total personal income. The county's economy, historically dominated by manufacturing, has diversified, led by gains in the health care, business service, and engineering service industries. Large employers in Lucas County include ProMedica Health Systems, (11,265 employees), Mercy health Partners (6,723 employees), and Bowling Green State University (5,400 employees). Although diversification strengthened the local economy, national declines in manufacturing have pushed the county unemployment rate up from a low of 4.5% in 2000 to 6.3% in 2006."

Bowling Green State U.'s employee data is available here.

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