Economic Development

Project Developers Look to WRPA for Financing

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Western Reserve Port Authority may provide financing for an industrial park that could be built near General Motors Co.’s Lordstown Complex.

The company, not identified by WRPA officials by presumed to be NorthPoint Development of Kansas City, is one of four entities that approached the port authority this month for financing, Sarah Lown, its senior manager for economic development, told the agency’s board of directors Wednesday.

NorthPoint is preparing for development land near the Lordstown plant formerly owned by GM. The company purchased 173.5 acres from the Racer Trust, which took possession of surplus industrial land after GM declared bankruptcy in 2009. The Lordstown project is known as the Lordstown Logistics Center.

The company, brought to the attention of the port authority by William Cann, manager for business development at the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber, wants to build a “supply chain resource kind of industrial park” in Lordstown, Lown said.

“That’s something with a short timeline and if it works it would be very exciting for us,” she added.

“Part of what’s happening around General Motors is they like to bring their suppliers closer to their facility,” said John Moliterno, interim executive director of the port authority. “We’re ready, willing and able to work with them, cooperate with them to help make those things happen.”

Another prospect looking for WRPA financing involves a site in Trumbull County that a Warren native, now a developer in California, is considering, Lown told the board.

“We’ve had a couple of interesting things happen,” Moliterno noted. “There’s a project in Mahoning County that’s similar to the one that we’re talking about in Trumbull. [It involves] people outside this area who grew up here, moved away, have been successful and now want to come back.”

Port authority board members and staff plan to travel next month to Toledo to meet with representatives of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, which Lown characterized as “probably the most forward-thinking of all the different [port authorities] in terms of financing and the kind of things they do.”

Among the topics to be discussed will be working with the Toledo port authority on a bond fund, a partnership proposed by the financial adviser to the port authority. The Toledo port authority’s bond rating is A-, the highest of any port authority in Ohio, Moliterno said.

“You have to put quite a bit of money into that bond fund. But when you put it in, you can borrow 10 times what you put in,” Lown said.

Also at today’s meeting, the board said it plans to interview eight candidates for the executive director’s position June 8. The applicants include Moliterno, who has served on an interim basis since last year.

“Hopefully we can get everybody we invite that day,” said David Mosure, chairman of the strategic planning committee. The board, which will meet in executive session, will interview by videoconference any candidates unable to attend in person.

“I believe we will be very close to making a decision at the next board meeting,” said Ron Klingle, chairman.

“If one guy stands out above the rest, we’ll make a decision by next meeting. If we have two or three who we really like and are not sure, we’re going to put in a little more effort,” Mosure said.

Although Klingle described himself as satisfied with the quality of the applications received, Mosure expressed disappointment about the number.

Mosure acknowledged that last time the port authority sought an executive director the process was more extensive, including hiring a search firm and involving the office of U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan. This time recruitment consisted of advertisements in local and national publications.

The strategic plan chairman alluded to negative publicity the board received in recent years as a factor reducing interest in the position. For a time last year, discord among the board was such that commissioners in Mahoning and Trumbull counties considered dissolving the board and starting over.

“Let’s face it, when everybody goes on the wire and reads about how the board has been run, the story in the last two years, it’s not a pretty picture,” Mosure said. “It’s getting a lot better, thanks to the commissioners.”

Commissioners in the two counties appoint WRPA’s board members, nearly all of whom have been replaced over the past year due to resignations and terms expiring.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.