WRPA Seeks Brownfield Funds to Aid Manufacturer

VIENNA TOWNSHIP, Ohio – Sites assessed under a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are drawing interest from prospective users, including a manufacturer in Howland that is interested in expanding, the board of the Western Reserve Port Authority learned Wednesday.

The port authority’s staff is working with JobsOhio to secure cleanup funds for one of the sites that has a potential end user, and WRPA plans to seek money from the federal agency to perform additional assessments, reported Sarah Lown, senior manager for economic development.

The company, which Lown would not identify because the project is in its early stages, also is considering moving out of the region or possibly to Mexico.

“We’re working with JobsOhio to get that [site] cleaned up,” she said.

JobsOhio, the public-private agency that spearheads economic development for the state, oversees the Clean Ohio program, which provides funds for brownfield remediation.

Lown said she expects an answer form JobsOhio officials within 30 days.

“They’ve indicated serious interest,” she remarked.

“The company certainly has the wherewithal to do all of the things we’ve talked about. They’ve shown that in the past,” said John Moliterno, port authority executive director.

“It’s a home-run for the state to do something,” given that there’s an end user for the site that would create new, high-paying jobs in manufacturing, Lown added.

In 2013, the port authority was awarded a $600,000 brownfield assessment grant from the U.S. EPA for assessments on industrial sites in Trumbull County to determine possible contaminants. Among those locations was the “Golden Triangle” in Howland.

Additional locations the port authority assessed using EPA funds include Warren’s community development building, the Girard Leatherworks and Trumbull Bronze sites, the former St. Joseph Riverside hospital building and the RG Steel administration building.

Lown said the agency would seek more federal money to assess brownfield sites in Mahoning County.

During their meeting Wednesday, WRPA board members met in executive session for more than an hour before approving a three-year contract with Moliterno.

Moliterno, who had served as interim executive director since last September, will be paid $110,000 annually, the port authority’s attorney, Dan Keating, reported. The board has the ability to award bonuses based on his performance but those are not specifically defined, Keating added. The contract does not call for any annual increases in pay.

The board will provide Moliterno with goals and objectives, and will review those periodically, Keating said. Moliterno also will be subject to an annual performance review.

“We have a strategic plan in place,” Moliterno said. “We’ve been out meeting with other port authorities. There’s some programs we want to put in place that will work to create and bring jobs to this valley.”

Those plans include establishing a bond fund and reorganization of the economic development department, which Moliterno and board members have said is understaffed.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.