Moliterno Praised for Work with Port Authority

VIENNA TOWNSHIP, Ohio – The retiring CEO of the Western Reserve Port Authority sees building trust and collaboration among local elected officials and the business community as one of the key accomplishments during his tenure.

Community leaders from around the Mahoning Valley joined the staff and board of directors of the port authority to recognize John Moliterno, who is stepping down at the end of the month. 

“It’s important for this Valley to move forward that everybody was trying to work together,” Moliterno reflected. 

The port authority hired Moliterno as executive director in June 2015 after he held the position on an interim basis since the previous September. He was named CEO in late 2020 as part of a planned transition that will see Anthony Trevena, its chief operating officer, become executive director. 

Helping to bring Moliterno – a former president of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber and local Better Business Bureau chapter – onto the WRPA staff was “my best accomplishment,” Ron Klingle said. Klingle, CEO of Avalon Holdings Inc., was WRPA board chairman when Moliterno was hired and recently completed eight years on the port authority board.  

“Things have changed a lot over the last eight years. And so much of it is a result of John and his dedication, the people he had working with him, along with a bunch of new board members who were all on the same page with one goal: making our community a better place to live,” he remarked.  

“It proved to be a pretty good move,” Marty Loney, Klingle’s successor as chairman, agreed. “It got us all going in the right direction.”

Warren Mayor Doug Franklin was among the community leaders who thanked Moliterno for his service. In particular, he recognized the outgoing port authority official for his role in a partnership with the city to move properties that were tax liabilities into productive use. 

Those include two that Warren developer Mark Marvin has repurposed: the former Mickey’s Army Navy plaza, the first floor of which is now completely occupied, and the former Warren Scope senior center, now Charbenay’s Wine on the River. The city also transferred a Mahoning Avenue property to the Trumbull County Historical Society, which it is converting into a cultural and education center. 

“It’s an unprecedented program that other communities are calling us about,” Franklin said. 

It was Franklin who recommended to his fellow mayor, Youngstown’s Jamael Tito Brown, that he engage the port authority in his city, Brown recalled. 

Brown evoked a quote by Booker T. Washington, noting that a man’s success “isn’t in the position he holds, but by the success he was able to achieve while in that position.” In all Moliterno’s positions, he has “been able to make some success,” the mayor said.   

“I can’t thank you enough for your leadership over these years,” said Rick Leonard, district director for U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13 Ohio. Ryan’s office led the effort to establish and fund – with contributions from the Mahoning Valley’s largest cities and the two counties – an economic development division and hire an executive director at the port authority to capitalize on the economic tools available to port authorities in Ohio.  

The measure of good leadership is whether the organization is in a better place than when the leader arrived. “Without a doubt, I think anybody in this room can say that you left this organization in a better place, and we as a community get a benefit from that,” Leonard said. 

The relationship between the port authority and the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber is critical for economic development, and has never been stronger than in the past year, said Guy Coviello, the chamber’s president and CEO. 

Coviello joked that he and Moliterno say they speak to each other more than they do to their own spouses. “That’s probably not going to stop after you retire,” he added. 

A video with songs such as “What a Wonderful World,” “Celebration,” “Taking Care of Business” and “My Way” highlighted various projects and initiatives the port authority participated in during Moliterno’s tenure, including the property transfer agreement with Warren, the renovation of the Stambaugh Building and reopening as the DoubleTree By Hilton Youngstown Downtown hotel, student housing projects near Youngstown State University, expansion of the Macy’s fulfillment center and other local development projects. 

“What I do, I do because I want to make the Mahoning Valley the best place it can possibly be,” Moliterno said.  

WRPA board members praised Moliterno for his efforts. 

Moliterno “is probably the greatest ambassador I’ve ever seen in action,” Sterling Williams said. 

Ed Muransky lauded Moliterno for helping bring local economic development engines, mayors and county commissioners together.

“It’s the only way that we could move this whole ship forward, and you’ve been a big part of it,” he said. “It’s going to pay big dividends for many years to come.” 

During the meeting, the port authority also approved a resolution authorizing execution of a term sheet and preliminary agreement with Mane Health Realty LLC, a real estate entity affiliated with Youngstown Orthopedic Center, which has locations in Boardman, Canfield and Howland, and the Orthopedic Surgery Center, 8551 Crossroads Drive, Poland. 

Mane Health Realty plans to build a 36,725-square-foot medical office that will be attached to the Orthopedic Surgery Center, said Jude Nohra, an attorney representing the companies. The office will be a relocation of the YOA office’s Building A in Boardman, and will house physical therapy, occupational therapy and radiology, as well as operations and administrative staff and up to 10 physicians.  

The project is expected to retain 82 jobs and create up to 12 new positions.

Youngstown Orthopedic
Youngstown Orthopedic
Youngstown Orthopedic
Youngstown Orthopedic Youngstown Orthopedic Youngstown Orthopedic

Gallery images include renderings of the approach, main entrance, courtyard and connector for the new Youngstown Orthopedic Center medical office.

The approval permits the port authority, which will own the site for state tax purposes for a period of time, to issue a sales tax exemption certificate for construction materials. The project, which is envisioned as phase two of a potentially four-phase project, will take 18 to 24 months and cost up to an estimated $15.5 million for construction expenses and equipment, Nohra said. 

With Moliterno’s retirement, Trevena will assume the role of port authority executive director effective March 1. Trevena was among the finalists for the executive director position when Moliterno was hired in 2015. 

The port authority, recognizing that Moliterno would retire or otherwise move on eventually, created a position for Trevena, Loney said. He was hired as director of economic development in September 2015, just a few months after hiring Moliterno.

Loney, who also is president of the Western Reserve Building and Construction Trades Council, likened the situation to an apprenticeship.  

Marty Loney presents Ron Klingle with a plaque recognizing his eight years on the board.

Reflecting on how everything proceeded, Trevena said the approach the board took was “the best decision that ever could have been made.” While he would have been prepared to take on the executive director’s job, he benefited from Moliterno’s mentorship and relationships he has built over the years. 

“I don’t know anybody who couldn’t sit down and just enjoy a conversation with John Moliterno,” he remarked. 

The port authority board also recognized Klingle, presenting him with a plaque for his recently completed term of service. Wednesday’s meeting was held at the Grand Resort, one of the properties Klingle’s Avalon Holdings operates. 

“We had to move as close to his office as we could” for Wednesday’s meeting, Moliterno joked. 

“It’s been a pleasure to be on this board for the last eight years,” Klingle said. “One of the things that’s been accomplished is bringing our community back to the position where we have an opportunity to really grow.”

Loney, who joined the port authority board at the same time as Klingle, said he “couldn’t ask for a better board member” and expressed his appreciation for his colleague’s expertise. “He’s been good to this Valley,” he said.  

Pictured at top: John Moliterno addresses Western Reserve Port Authority board members, staff and other officials gathered during Wednesday’s meeting.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.