Economic Development

Port Authority Undertakes Hiring Executive Director

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VIENNA TOWNSHIP, Ohio – John Moliterno, interim executive director of the Western Reserve Port Authority, confirmed Wednesday that he intends to apply for the position.

He did so after the regular meeting of the board of directors.

During their meeting, directors approved a new strategic plan that included hiring an executive director. The board also approved issuing bonds to help the Southern Park Mall in Boardman upgrade its energy efficiency.

Moliterno, a former member and chairman of the WRPA board, has served as interim executive director in since September. He is the owner of Pegasus Printing Group in Youngstown and has served as president of the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber and before that, of the Better Business Bureau of Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull Counties.

Moliterno has enjoyed being on the staff of the port authority, he said, and his involvement its aviation and economic development roles.

“As you go through life, we all need challenges,” Moliterno remarked. The challenge of advancing the mission of the port authority – marshaling its resources to create jobs — is “exciting and it’s challenging,” he said, “and it’s very necessary for us to move forward.”

The deadline for applications is May 15. The position will be advertised in local media, on the website of the Western Reserve Port Authority, the American Association of Airport Executives and possibly in The Wall Street Journal, said Dan Keating, counsel to the port authority.

The executive director will oversee both the aviation and economic development divisions of the port authority, says a job description the port authority furnished. The agency operates Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport and has various economic development tools, such as the legal authority to issue low-interest bonds. It also administers the tax abatement programs for Mahoning County.

The port authority is seeking candidates with “proven private and/or public-sector, senior-level management experience with demonstrated excellence” in project and financial management as well as business development. “Experience directing multi-county organizations would be beneficial,” the description reads.

A baccalaureate in a related field is required, although a master’s degree is preferred.

The board authorized the issuance of $2.338 million in nonrecourse Property Assessment Clean Energy bonds to be used for energy efficiency upgrades at Southern Park Mall. The mall will use the funds for roof upgrades, said Sarah Lown, senior manager, economic development, for the port authority.

“This is a program that provides competitive funding for improvements,” Lown said. The port authority began working with the owners of the mall nearly two years ago, she said.

“It’s very important that this mall stays as current as it can get,” Moliterno stated.

During an executive session that ran nearly an hour, the board received an update from officials with Aerodynamics Inc., the carrier that has applied to provide daily service at Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport.

Based on concerns over a civil fraud finding against Scott Beale, owner of ADI, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued a show cause order recommending not only denial of the expanded service but questioned its fitness to operate. Beale subsequently resigned his positions with the company and agreed to sell his ownership stake.

ADI officials, who had requested the conference call with the port authority board, “were very comfortable with how everything is proceeding but it is still predicated on the sale of the stock,” Moliterno said. Once the sale is completed, ADI must wait for another DOT show cause order approving its application for expanded service.

Several entities, none identified by ADI, have expressed interest in acquiring Beale’s shares, Moliterno said. “They said they are all known to the Department of Transportation, which is a good thing,” he remarked.

The ADI officials were described as “very straightforward” in answering the board members’ questions, he added. “They asked very pointed questions as a board, as they should,” he related.

Dan Dickten, aviation director, reported that March’s passenger count was 11,597, and year to date is running about 2,000 ahead of the same point in 2014. The airport sees no sign of any problem with future bookings, even with the addition of flights by Allegiant Air, which provides scheduled service to various vacation destinations. Among them are Pittsburgh International Airport and soon at Akron-Canton Airport.

Dickten and Moliterno are scheduled to attend Allegiant’s annual conference in May, Dickten reported. At the conference, they will try, based on Allegiant’s “robust” numbers and load factors at Youngstown-Warren, to persuade the airline to make Punta Gorda a year-round destination fand extend flights to Myrtle Beach. They also intend to lobby for additional destinations.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.