Omaha Planning Director Rick Cunningham said Friday that Mayor Jim Suttle asked him last month to check on the Omaha Steel Castings Co.'s plans to move its operations to Wahoo.
Cunningham said the mayor contacted him on March 4, saying he had heard the Wahoo deal could be in trouble. Cunningham said the mayor requested that he gather information about the deal Omaha had offered the company and that he give Omaha Steel President Phil Teggart a call to check on the situation.
Cunningham said he got busy with other work and never made the call. He didn't try again until after the mayor brought it up again early this week, before a mayoral debate in which Suttle said officials were “actively pursuing bringing them back to Omaha.”
“I dropped the ball on calling (Teggart) at that point in time,” Cunningham said. “At that point in time, with what we had heard, somebody should have called him. That should have been me, and I didn't call.”
Suttle's campaign spokeswoman said that the mayor had heard from the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce in early March that the company might be having problems with the Wahoo site and that Suttle had asked Cunningham at that point to contact the company.
“When the mayor said he was hoping to work with Omaha Steel again, he was under the impression from his planning director that talks were taking place,” Aida Amoura, his campaign spokeswoman, said in an email Friday.
Suttle, in a statement Friday, said he didn't intend to interfere with the plant's move.
“I was merely trying to let them know that we valued their business, and if they were having problems, they would always be welcomed in Omaha,” Suttle said. “I was led to believe that they were communicating with us, and I'm truly sorry about any misunderstanding. We wish Mr. Teggart and Omaha Steel the best.”
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