Open Letter to the NKY Chamber: Tolls Are Bad for Business

The following open letter from SERVPRO president was published in the River City News on December 4, 2014.

I heard recently that the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce is going to invest more in small business membership. That’s good news, and a positive development for small businesses in the region. 
 
Small businesses are often left out of the larger conversation about how regional policies impact our bottom dollar. It is important for small businesses to have a voice in these decisions.
 
As the Chamber looks toward the coming legislative session I hope they will carefully consider the impact tolls on the Brent Spence Bridge will have on our many small businesses in the region. 
 
The Hartke family has been living in and running small businesses in Northern Kentucky for more than 166 years. Hartke and Sons carriage makers, which opened its doors in 1866, was located in the building now occupied by another small business, Steffen’s Tool Crib.  Across the street is UpTech, a small business accelerator focused on informatics and technology. 
 
Once vacant store fronts on W. Pike Street are now filled with new businesses, and many properties are currently under construction for what will be yet another round of emerging small businesses who call Covington home. 
 
Small businesses are the lifeblood of our regional economy. 
 
SERVPRO has been operating in the greater Cincinnati region for 25 years. In January of 2013 we opened a Southern service facility at the corner of 10th & Madison in Covington. This location has been ideal for the SERVPRO business. The location offers quick access to all services areas in the region because of its close proximity to I-75/71 as well as Campbell County to the East.
 
Until recently we paid little attention to the conversation regarding the rehabilitation of the Brent Spence Bridge. The project is packaged and sold with talking points that sound great. 
 
A new bridge with safer driving conditions and less traffic. Who wouldn’t want that?
 
After reviewing the impact of tolls on our operation, however, the outlook for us appears quite grim. We utilize the bridge frequently on a daily basis and our work is paid by insurance carriers. The insurance industry will not reimburse businesses such as ours for toll expenses. 
 
If the toll rates on the Louisville project are any indication of the possible toll rates on the Brent Spence Bridge, our trucks would be paying $5 - $10 per trip over the bridge. Additionally, we must factor in numerous trips made by our staff as well as sub-contractors and suppliers. 
 
At the low end of $5 per trip, the cost of our operations would increase almost $100,000 annually, and would eliminate our ability to thrive in a competitive industry. Re-routing to local streets and other access points to avoid the tolls will almost certainly create additional confusion and congestion. 
 
I suspect there are many small businesses in the region who have yet to take a good look at the numbers and understand fully the impact tolls will have on their bottom line. Anyone who relies on goods or services moved across the bridge should make certain they understand the potential impact as well.
 
The higher costs of transporting goods and services will mean higher costs to the consumer—and that impacts all of us, not just the folks who drive across the bridge.
 
The total cost to the region could be as much as half a billion dollars annually. 
 
As a small business owner I am thrilled to see the hard work being done on our behalf by the Northern Kentucky delegation to the General Assembly. I will continue to support our legislators in their efforts, and I hope the Northern Kentucky Chamber will do the same. 
 
Wayne Hartke is President of SERVPRO and a resident of Northern Kentucky

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