WRPA Takes First Steps in Leadership Transition

VIENNA TOWNSHIP, Ohio – The Western Reserve Port Authority launched a 14-month leadership transition Wednesday with the approval of new contracts and titles for John Moliterno and Anthony Trevena.

Moliterno, the port authority’s executive director since 2015, will become its CEO under a contract that runs through February 2022. Trevena, who also sought the executive director’s post but subsequently was hired as director of economic development, will serve as chief operating officer under a three-year agreement.

Moliterno’s annual pay under his agreement will be $126,000; Trevena’s will be $110,000. 

“Both of them do an incredible job,” said Marty Loney, WRPA chairman, following the agency’s board meeting Wednesday. 

The intent is for Trevena to become more involved in other aspects of the port authority’s operations, with the intent of transitioning into Moliterno’s role upon his retirement. Loney said the change in titles was primarily “just a language cleanup more than anything” that will facilitate the transition.

Moliterno affirmed that his role will be “pretty much the same” and he will continue to operate as he has. 

“Anthony will become more involved with some of the aspects of the port authority that he hasn’t been up until now because he has been director of economic development,” he said. “We’ll spend the next 14 months involving him in airport projects, as well as things that he historically has not been involved with.” 

Trevena, whose positions before joining the port authority included serving as director of administration at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and as chief of staff for former U.S. Rep. John Boccieri, said his new role will be a familiar one. 

“I’ve always been an operations person,” he said. “This has been a great job for me to bring together and culminate all the things I’ve experienced and learned.” 

Trevena said he appreciates the WRPA board members, each of whom has become “a mentor and adviser” in his career. “I’m appreciative of the responsibilities they give me and they entrust with me. I’m excited about getting more involved with other areas of the port authority’s capacity.”

During the board meeting, Trevena and other staff shared updates on various airport and economic development projects and the port authority’s finances.

Projects include the Mahoning Valley Campus of Care, the former Youngstown Developmental Center. Most of the capital improvements at the site are complete, said Sarah Lown, WRPA public finance manager. If all goes on schedule, the first tenant,. Alta Care Group, will move onto the campus in early January. 

The board approved a $41,430 change order for contractor Declan Construction, Brookfield, for work at the site. The change order brought the total contract to $470,430.    

Among the other items discussed was the proposed southfield development project, a set of buildings to be constructed on the southern end of the airport’s property that would include a maintenance and repair operation. Requests for funds to support the project have been submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration, JobsOhio and the U.S. Economic Development Administration, said Randy Partika, WRPA project manager and development engineer. 

“We’ll see how it goes in the next two months,” he said. 

Moliterno said he still could not discuss the parties he is in discussion with that are interested in occupying the buildings if the project moves forward.

“It is still a work in progress but it is exciting,” he said. “We’re very excited about how this can change this airport and the airport property.”

With a year of reduced business because of the pandemic, airlines are preparing for 2021, he said.

“They’re all gearing up for when we come out of this to jump in with both feet,” he continued. “It’ll be a great opportunity for us.” 

Meanwhile, walls are starting to go up and roof trusses were being delivered at 3900 Market St., Boardman, where the port authority is building a plaza that will include Dunkin Donuts.  

Because of the pandemic’s impact on the travel and hospitality industry, bed tax collections for the year were down about $390,000 from the $1.65 million the port authority normally receives, said Kevin Kern, chief financial officer.

For the 12-month period from November 2019 through October 31, collections totaled $1,265,242. By comparison, the port authority received $1,639,651 in 2019 and $1,726,966 in 2018, a year that “Mahoning County was just rocking,” Kern said. 

At the start of the pandemic, when bed tax collections were about 20% of their normal levels, the port authority had projected collections for the year could be down by $900,000, he said. Later in the year, monthly collections rebounded to about 85% or 90% of normal.  

“When we looked at this [earlier this year], no one knew what to expect,” said Kathleen Kennedy, chairwoman of the board’s finance committee.

The port authority was able to compensate for the shortfall in several ways, including not filling some open positions, not having to purchase winter supplies because of the light winter earlier this year and low aviation traffic at the airport, Moliterno said. 

The port authority also signed a $31,000 monthly lease for a building it owns on Ridge Road. Additional airport tenants and unanticipated capital lease deals the port authority entered into provided additional revenue, Kern said.   

Pictured: Anthony Trevena, WRPA’s director of economic development, and John Molinterno, executive director. 

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.