Economic Development

WRPA to Search for Executive Director

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — The Western Reserve Port Authority will conduct what its chairman expects will be a national search for a new executive director, following approval of its strategic plan by its board of directors next month.

Members of WRPA’s board met Wednesday and discussed the strategic plan prepared by the Council of Development Finance Agencies over the last 18 months.

The plan addresses four focus areas: governance and management, fiscal health, program and project management and partnership development, with various objectives to be addressed over the next five years.

The port authority is providing copies of the plan to the boards of commissioners in Mahoning and Trumbull counties for review, said David Mosure, chairman of the strategic planning committee. The port authority board expects to approve the plan at its April meeting.

Once that plan is approved, the board will move forward on filling the executive director’s position. John Moliterno, former president of the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber and the Better Business Bureau, has served as interim executive director since September.

“As a board, we would like to see this process take place sometime within the next 90 days or so,” said Ron Klingle, WRPA chairman. The board will begin advertising for the position in what will “probably” be a national search once the strategic plan is approved, he said.

Klingle expressed his hope that Moliterno, who board members say has done an “excellent job,” he reported, will be among those applying for the position. Klingle enlisted Moliterno last year to serve as interim executive director.

“Over the last couple of months I’ve heard so many comments from the public and other professionals out there that John Moliterno is just doing an exceptional job for us in representing us,” Klingle remarked. “But at the same time, you know, we made a commitment months ago that when the strategic planning process was completed that we would go out and do a search to see if John is actually the best person.”

Following the meeting, Moliterno was noncommittal as to whether he would seek the executive director position when it is advertised.

“Quite honestly, I enjoy it. It fits my skill set,” he said. “It is also a way for me to give back to this community, which is why I agreed to do it in the first place. There’s a tremendous opportunity for the port authority to help the Valley grow, to help bring jobs here and increase activity at the airport, all of which is easy to get excited about and I enjoy being a part of it.”

During the meeting, the WRPA board approved contributing $25,000 annually over the next three years to support a Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber initiative help fund a military affairs commission. The goal of the commission is to keep the Youngstown Air Reserve Station open. A representative of the Regional Chamber appeared before the port authority board in January to request the funding.

“The airbase is extremely important to this Valley,” Moliterno said. The airbase and the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, which the port authority operates, share runways and “it’s important from an economic development standpoint,” he said. “We’re happy to contribute some dollars as well as whatever other assistance we can provide.”

The board also approved allocating an additional $25,000 for marketing flights offered by Allegiant Air from the regional airport. In recent months Allegiant began offering service from Pittsburgh International Airport and will begin offering flights at Akron-Canton Airport.

“We need to keep up with the competition,” said Dan Dickten, director of aviation at the airport.

In an email following Wednesday’s meeting, Dickten sought to counter a “misperception” that Allegiant is relocating to Akron-Canton and ceasing operations at Youngstown-Warren. The start of Allegiant service at Pittsburgh had “no negative impact” on passenger numbers at the regional airport and Allegiant will continue to operate from here “well into the future,” he assured.

“The region is large enough with a strong enough population to support Allegiant service at all three airports,” Dicten said.

During the meeting, Moliterno told the board members that he is “pleasantly surprised” at the number of people he talks to who say they use the airport, including individuals who report they “drive right past” the Pittsburgh airport to use Youngstown-Warren.

At the end of the meeting, Klingle noted the recent death of Rose Ann DeLeon, the port authority’s first executive director. DeLeon, who was hired in 2009, was off work for several months during her tenure for health reasons and was relieved of her duties for health reasons a year ago.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.