The economic development consultant will be paid with anti-terrorism funds.
By STEPHEN SIFF
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
VIENNA -- The Western Reserve Port Authority will hire a former official from Columbus' Rickenbacker International Airport to jump-start economic development here.
Bruce E. Miller, former CEO of the Rickenbacker Port Authority, will work as a consultant out of an office in the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, officials said.
"He will be the deal-maker for economic development," said Michael O'Brien, a Trumbull County commissioner. "He was very successful at Rickenbacker, and it is logical to use Rickenbacker's success to our advantage."
Miller, 58, takes credit for shepherding more then 50 businesses, and $600 million in real estate development, to an industrial park around the Columbus cargo airport.
He also ran Franklin Community Development Corporation, a private nonprofit group that provided for the development of 250 acres around the airport and built three air cargo terminals.
"What Bruce brings to the table, that no one here has, is that he has been working for 12 years to develop an airport," said Reid Dulberger, president of the port authority board. "We have a lot of faith in his ability to help out here."
Miller's compensation is still being negotiated with the board, Dulberger said. His pay will come from a $114,000 reimbursement from the FAA for post-Sept. 11 security costs, Dulberger said.
The use of the money was approved by Mahoning and Trumbull county commissioners, he said. Each county will contribute $315,000 this year to keep the airport running.
When officials undertook a $40 million airport expansion several years ago, they had high hopes for developing the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport as a cargo hub. That never materialized, and the facility has actually lost passenger service since the federally funded expansion was completed.
What's behind decision
Economic development has been handled by Thomas Nolan, the airport director, and by officials at the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber of Commerce.
"I haven't had a chance to study the area in depth, but I know that in general air cargo is growing, air travel is growing," said Miller, of Columbus. "These are growing in the rest of the country, and there is no reason they can't grow in this area."
The port authority, which owns the airport and 600-acres of development-ready land nearby, also has the power to work development deals elsewhere in the two counties. Dulberger said Miller will also look into other tools, such as a revolving bond fund, the port authority could use to foster development.
Miller said he does not know what he will work on first, but that he has received marching orders from county commissioners.
"They would like to see the area grow, they would like to see jobs, they would like to see the subsidy diminish," he said.