YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – If we only had John Moliterno’s tenure at the helm of the Western Reserve Port Authority to assess, we could point to a significant record of accomplishments. Thankfully, Moliterno has given more decades of service to the Mahoning Valley, providing leadership that bridged county and city lines.
Moliterno retired Feb. 28 as CEO of the port authority, with a legacy of bringing together people, local governments, business organizations and economic development projects.
In 1986, Moliterno, having served as president and general manager of the area Better Business Bureau, assumed the presidency of what was then the Youngstown Area Chamber of Commerce.
During his decade-long tenure there, the chamber undertook economic development initiatives with long-term implications for the region. First, in the late 1980s, he established a new economic development division, the Regional Growth Alliance, and hired the first in a series of specialists who would focus on attracting new businesses to the region and working with existing businesses to help them grow.
Then, he led the merger of the Youngstown, Warren and Niles chambers of commerce to form the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber – a radical concept at the time. The merger sent a strong message that the business community would no longer permit parochialism and intercommunity squabbles to stand as roadblocks to progress.
Moliterno left the chamber to go into private business. In 2014, he stepped back into economic development leadership as interim director of the port authority. The following year, after months of turmoil and infighting among the WRPA board and a near-complete turnover in its membership, he was hired full-time.
Since Moliterno took the helm, the port authority – created in 1991 to take over operations of what is now the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport – has taken a robust role in economic development.
The port authority has worked with the cities of Youngstown and Warren as well as organizations like the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp. to return vacant urban properties to productive use. Its unique tools for financing redevelopment projects have been deployed across the region. Just one example is the port’s capital lease mechanism, which helped to finance the redevelopment of the Stambaugh Building into a downtown Youngstown hotel.
More recently, the port authority acquired the former Republic Steel property in Trumbull County, a nearly 1,000-acre brownfield that already is drawing interest from potential developers.
Moliterno, a long-time Girard city councilman, also served several years as chairman of the governing board for the Ohio Consumers Council.
He leaves the port authority with a strong development team in place. He has earned the gratitude of the Mahoning Valley business community for all of his jobs so very well done.