Economic Development

Day One of Convention Traffic Bypasses Valley

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – It was business as usual at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport and the area’s hotels during Day One of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, officials said Monday.

The airport, and many executives and managers in the local hospitality industry, had hoped to gain some sort of boost from overflow air traffic and convention goers that weren’t lucky enough to land a hotel room close to the city and lodge in secondary markets such as the Mahoning Valley.

“It’s pretty quiet right now, so we’re not overwhelmed by any stretch,” said Neil Gallagher, president of Winner Aviation Inc., the fixed-base operator at Youngstown-Warren.

In March, Winner was designated as a Gateway City FBO serving Reagan National Airport in Washington, which would enable aircraft to clear private aviation customers flying to Regan from other parts of the country.

Gallagher says that just one plane was scheduled to go through a TSA inspection at Youngstown before proceeding to Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland. “We really didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “We were probably overly optimistic that we would be slammed.”

Dan Dickten, director of aviation at Youngstown-Warren, said that officials had hoped between 50 and 60 aircraft would use the airport during the convention. “It’s not nearly as we had hoped,” he added. “There’s very light activity today.”

However, as the convention heats up, so could activity at the airport and Winner, Gallagher said.

“That all could change in a heartbeat,” he said.

The regional impact on the hospitality industry appears to be concentrated in the Cleveland-Akron-Canton markets, while delegations have booked hotels as far away as Sandusky.

“We had a group of rooms set aside, but they weren’t picked up,” said Diane Maiorana, general manager of the Holiday Inn Express in Austintown, just off the Interstate 80 and state Route 46 interchange. “We thought there would be some interest,” she noted, but opted to let the rooms go about a month ago.

“We haven’t seen any pickup from it yet,” Maiorana said. “We did hear that Akron and Canton were sold out.”

Linda Macala, executive director of the Mahoning County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, said that she hasn’t heard of any influx of convention personnel staying in the Youngstown area.

“We’re hoping to see some day-trip activity,” she said. “We’ve advertised and took out some ads in the Cleveland papers and special publications and maps printed for the convention.”

She was informed by one local hotel that a wedding party was forced to book a room here because all of the Cleveland area’s hotels were filled because of the convention. “So, indirectly it’s brought some business,” she noted.

Macala said that she was going to wait until the end of the week to assess what impact, if any, the convention has had on local hotels or lodges. “I won’t really have an answer until then,” she said.

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Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.