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Port authorities reach financing deal



Published: Thu, August 25, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The port authority also took initial steps to start an aircraft maintenance school.

By ED RUNYAN

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

VIENNA -- The Western Reserve Port Authority now has an agreement with the Summit County Port Authority to widen its role as an economic development entity.

The two port authorities plan to work together to provide low-interest, long-term financing for projects in Mahoning and Trumbull counties.

The Summit port authority provides funding and trade advantages to new or expanding businesses. One mechanism is tax-exempt and taxable long-term fixed and variable-rate financing.

Reid Dulberger, Regional Chamber executive vice president, said Wednesday that the financing "brings a tool to the county" that is currently not available.

The Regional Chamber and the Western Reserve authority will identify deals that could put the bond financing to use. The two port authorities would collect a small bond fund administration fee.

Christopher J. Burnham, president and executive director of the Summit port authority, said the deals are usually between $1 million and $6 million.

Recently, however, the port authority had a deal with Goodyear Tire & amp; Rubber in Akron in which the company needed $18 million to modernize utilities by buying heating and cooling systems. Banks didn't want to finance the project because it was for something other than making tires, he said, so the port authority's bond financing was a good fit.

An idea already being considered locally is to use the financing for construction of four "T-hangars" at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, which the Western Reserve authority operates. These hangars would house privately owned aircraft; the idea is to attract more commercial and private aircraft to the airport in Vienna Township.

On Wednesday, local port-authority members listened as consultants from R.W. Armstrong of Cleveland detailed plans for the hangars. Authority members then voted to have Armstrong prepare specifications and ask companies to submit bids.

The consultants said the port authority needed to decide whether to build the hangars with a loan from a bank, a joint public-private arrangement in which the port authority becomes the developer, or whether to enter into an agreement with a private developer to build and run the hangars.

Port authority member Thomas Petrarca said he didn't think the port authority should "invest any of our dollars," so he favored the third option.

Steve Bowser, the airport's director of aviation, said the bond funds could be used in any of the three options.

In other business, the port authority took initial steps to build an aircraft maintenance school to be in place by September 2006. It voted to apply for nonprofit status with the Internal Revenue Service.

Bowser said the authority is a nonprofit organization but needs the designation from the IRS so it can apply for funds needed to start the school. It would be a technical school that would give students training leading to an airframe and power-plant license.




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