GOP Convention Will Bring Aircraft to Regional Airport

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Republican National Committee’s nominating convention in Cleveland this summer will bring additional activity to Youngstown-Warren Regional airport and potentially an economic boost to the Mahoning Valley.

The Vienna Township airport, which is operated by the Western Reserve Port Authority, is designated as one of two entry airports into the Cleveland area for the convention, Dan Dickten told the port authority’s board of directors Wednesday.

Aircraft flying from the East and South into Cleveland for the convention, which will take place July 18-21, will stop at Youngstown-Warren for Transportation Security Agency screenings, while aircraft flying from the West will go through the Mansfield airport.

“This will create a whole lot less havoc for TSA than trying to clear security at Burke Lakefront Airport or anywhere inside that radius,” Dickten said.

“It’ll mean a nice surge of business for our operators,” such as additional fuel sales and other services provided by the airport’s fixed-base operator, he said. It could also mean “a good boost in economic development,” he added.

Scenarios are being contemplated that involve aircraft continuing on to Cleveland for the convention or remaining parked at Youngstown-Warren and the GOP delegates and guests being bused to the site, he said.

Another possibility involves delegates whose aircraft remain parked at the airport taking advantage of local lodging options.

“That’s another piece of this thing,” he said. “There are rooms being made available in the Youngstown-Warren area where people might stay over and commute to the Republican National Convention.”

During its monthly meeting, the WRPA board voted to move forward on developing and negotiating a land lease and operating agreement with Joe Kerola, president of PI&I Motor Express in Masury. Kerola has proposed developing a 30,000-square-foot hangar to accommodate large aircraft and, potentially, a second fixed-base operator at the airport.

Winner Aviation has operated as the airport’s FBO since 1995.

“What I’m looking at right now is to develop Phase 1, a corporate hangar for myself and some associates to put some planes in the airport because of the runways, approaches and things that make it easier to get in and out of in all weather conditions,” Kerola said.

The airport’s facilities are “probably the best in the 100-mile radius,” he remarked. The hangar would accommodate six large aircraft. Kerola and other aircraft owners now house their planes at other airports in the region.

“We’re still trying to find a site plan that works for Joe,” Dickten said. He said he has been working with Kerola to identify a site on the airport property to develop the hangar.

Kerola is eager to move forward with the project.

“I’m an impatient person so I would like to move yesterday,” he said. “I would hope we could get something going by summer so we could potentially break ground, if we find a site that’s mutually agreeable and economically viable for everyone.”

The port authority also approved the issuance of up to $18.5 million in revenue bonds to finance Hallmark Campus Communities in Columbus with the 162-bed student apartment building it is building near Youngstown State University. Ground was broken in October on the project, which is expected to be open for fall semester.

“We want to see projects like this happen in the Valley. There’s a need at Youngstown State University for housing,” said Anthony Trevena, director of economic development for the port authority.

In his report, Trevena told board members that the Phase I environmental assessment on the former Delphi Packard property on Dana Street in Warren is complete and the Phase II study should be compete “any week now.”

The results of the Phase I assessment have been given to Christopher Alan, founder and CEO of Auto Parkit LLC. Alan, a Warren native, has proposed re-using the former industrial buildings to manufacture and distribute his company’s automated parking lift systems for vehicles.

Alan announced the project at a news conference in October. He is in a six-month due diligence period to determine whether to move forward with the investment.

“Once we get Phase II completed, that’ll go to the developer, then to the state of Ohio to look at what we would do for remediation,” Trevena said.

The WRPA board held its annual election of officers Wednesday. Re-elected to their positions were Ron Klingle as chairman, Marty Loney as vice-chairman and David Mosure as secretary.

Pictured: Winner Aviation is the regional airport’s fixed base operator.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.