WRPA Tells Commissioners about Potential Project

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Mahoning County Commissioners David Ditzler and Carol Rimedio-Righetti met behind closed doors for about an hour Friday with the staff of the Western Reserve Port Authority to discuss a potential economic development project.

The commissioners and the WRPA representatives, along with Michael DiPerna, the port authority’s financial adviser, met in executive session to discuss the possible purchase and sale of real estate related to the project.

“We’re looking at a project that could have a nice impact for the county, the city and the region, and it’s something that would take the port in a direction that hopefully you would like to see us take,“ said Sarah Lown, senior manager of economic development for the port authority.

The port authority’s executive director, John Moliterno, and its director of economic development, Anthony Trevena, accompanied Lown at the meeting with the commissioners on the proposed project, which all parties said is in the early stages.

“It is much too preliminary” to discuss further, Trevena said.

“It’s basically something that they’re working on” and wanted to give commissioners “a heads-up,” Rimedio-Righetti said. It’s “a concept of what they feel” Youngstown and Mahoning County should look like, she added, declining to say more.

Mahoning and Trumbull counties and fund the port authority through bed taxes collected at hotels in the counties. “This is us reporting to our bosses,” Trevena remarked.

Last year, the port authority allocated $150,000 from the bed taxes to its economic development division. This year’s budget doubles that allocation to $300,000.

Those funds, if not used immediately, accumulate to be used for “projects and other things on the economic development side,” Moliterno said. The funds give the port authority “more opportunities” to become actively involved in projects.

Creating a bond fund in collaboration with other port authorities is among the potential uses for economic development funds, he added.

“We’re in the process of meeting with other ports about joining together on a bond fund. We’ve also approached the state of Ohio for assistance and there will be a match, a local match, that will be necessary and that’s what those dollars will be allocated for,” Moliterno said.

Port authority funds also could be used to acquire property, he noted.

Rimedio-Righetti said she wants to see Trumbull County allocate the same percentage of its lodging or bed tax as Mahoning County does, or 2%, to the port authority. She hopes to press the case at a meeting expected to take place next month between the two counties’ boards of commissioners and the port authority.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.