The port board will sometimes meet in Mahoning County, starting this month.
By BOB JACKSON
VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The Western Reserve Port Authority will pump up its presence in Mahoning County.
Commissioner Ed Reese said many county residents have the idea that the port authority's only task is overseeing the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport. That's largely because the board's monthly meetings are at the airport.
"That couldn't be farther from being accurate," said Dino Theofilos, WRPA board chairman. "This is one of the most influential economic development organizations in the area."
Reese said he met recently with some members of the port board to encourage them to focus more on Mahoning County. He wants to see more effort put into economic development projects here.
"There is growth going on out there [around the state] and we're not getting any," Reese said, noting that commissioners will work with the port board to help facilitate growth.
More projects: While daily operation of the airport in Vienna is an important priority, Reese said it should not be the only one for the port board.
He wants the panel to help push for development in areas such as the Mahoning River Corridor of Opportunity, which extends along the river from South Avenue in Youngstown to the Struthers-Lowellville border. It is the site of the former Youngstown Sheet and Tube Campbell Works and the Republic Steel Youngstown Works.
Officials hope to secure state money through a new state program that provides funding to the corridor for the revitalization and development of abandoned industrial sites.
"We want the port authority to be ready to help us aggressively seek new clients to locate there," Reese said.
Theofilos said the board had planned to increase its profile in Mahoning County before the meeting with Reese. The first step will be to start holding some of its meetings in the county.
One is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 22 in Boardman, Theofilos said.
Developing county: Meanwhile, he said the board has never given Mahoning County the short shrift when it comes to economic development.
"The residents of Mahoning County do benefit from the port authority's work," he said, pointing to such projects as building a new plant for Delphi Packard Electric Systems in Vienna Township.
Even though the plant will be in Trumbull County, Mahoning County will reap rewards because some Mahoning residents will work there and employees will spend money in Mahoning County, Theofilos said.
He said the port board is involved in several similar projects that benefit both counties.
Still, he said the board understands Reese's concerns and will work with commissioners to boost Mahoning County.
Reese suggested that the board hire a full-time director to oversee day-to-day operations, but Theofilos said that is not in the board's budget for this year.
"We've talked about that before," he said. "If we think there is a major need for someone to market and oversee the port authority in the future, we'll look into it."