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REGIONAL AIRPORT Authority considering joint venture



Published: Wed, July 27, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Summit County Port Authority provides long-term financing for many projects.

VIENNA -- The Western Reserve Port Authority is exploring a venture with the Summit County Port Authority that would widen its role as an economic development entity.

The two port authorities are talking about low-interest, long-term financing for economic development projects.

One such venture could be construction of five hangars for privately owned planes at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, which the Western Reserve authority operates.

Bill Reali, port authority chairman, said the venture with Summit County -- to be discussed in greater detail at the board's August meeting -- has much greater possibilities: "We want to relate this to the potential of offering alternative financing for projects in our two counties," Mahoning and Trumbull.

The Summit authority will take up the matter in September.

The port authority already is working with consultants on a new master plan for future facility improvements and growth. R.W. Armstrong, Cleveland, is looking at the airport's facilities, assessing passenger and cargo demand and general aviation activity and developing a detailed financial plan.

T-hangars

The port authority is interested in attracting more private and commercial aircraft to the airport, said Bill Barley, R.W. Armstrong's Ohio regional director. Along those lines, the consultant on Tuesday presented a preliminary plan to the board members for building five hangars.

These "T-hangars" would face state Route 193 near the airport's main entrance and in total would accommodate 54 privately owned aircraft. Barley said each building could cost an estimated $35,000 to $40,000.

The scope of the project, in comparison to hangar projects at other regional airports, would be "very conservative," said Michael S. Harshman, board member.

There are 340 planes in Trumbull County, yet only 40 are based at the Vienna facility, airport officials have said. The airport now has two "T-hangars" that can house six planes each, and businesses at the airport have six of their own hangars.

Funding

R.W. Armstrong is estimating the overall construction cost, and making projections on occupancy levels and income on hangar rentals. It then will develop scenarios for the port authority doing the project on its own or hiring a firm to do so. Also being examined are options for federal and state funding, and low-interest loans.

Reali said an agreement with Summit County could make its bond fund available "if the revenue stream is good and this looks like a good project."

The Summit County Port Authority administers several foreign trade zone sites. It provides long-term fixed- and variable-rate financing, and provides an industrial park at the Akron Canton Airport. Its tax-exempt bonds are for industrial, government and non-profit projects; taxable bonds are for commercial projects.

Recent Summit authority projects are primary funding of the $21 million restoration of Akron Civic Theatre, lease financing for Summa Health System's $28 million Centers of Excellence facility, and financing of about $27 million in projects including Twinsburg Township's new town hall, Seville village's new town hall and water filtration facility, Goodyear's new heating and cooling facilities, and public improvements in Brimfield Township, Garfield Heights and Portage County senior housing.

Commissioner approval

Portage County commissioners last August approved a cooperative agreement between that county and the Summit County Port Authority.

Jason Earnhart, assistant Trumbull County prosecutor, said he does not believe county commissioners' approval will be required, because the Western Reserve Port Authority is an independent political subdivision.

Summit's bond fund offers sales tax exemptions for all construction and building materials. Eligible borrowers include industrial or commercial companies, government, and infrastructure projects. Eligible projects include new building construction, renovation of existing buildings, and land acquisition.




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