Port authority to hire firm in hopes of landing ‘best talent’ to be director

By David Skolnick

Officials OK spending up to $100,000 for director job that could pay $210,000.

The Western Reserve Port Authority plans to hire a firm Wednesday that will find the ideal person to serve as economic development director for Mahoning and Trumbull counties.

The firm, Heidrick & Struggles, could receive $75,000 to $100,000 for its efforts to hire someone whose annual salary will be at least $150,000 and could be as much as $210,000, said Trumbull County Commissioner Paul Heltzel. Heltzel is a member of a committee that reviewed the qualifications of the seven companies that submitted proposals to handle the director search.

“We’re going after the best talent in the country,” said U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, who added that the best costs money.

Heidrick & Struggles, a Chicago-based company with offices on six continents, was recommended by the committee to conduct the search because of its size, staff, experience and expertise, Heltzel said.

The plan to hire the company was announced Monday by port authority members, local government officials and Ryan, who’s played a key role in pushing this initiative.

If all goes according to plan, the economic development director could be on the job in three months.

During that time, Heidrick & Struggles will screen candidates, and the authority committee would interview about three to five finalists and choose one, Heltzel said.

Heidrick & Struggles would be paid a fee equal to one-third of the director’s salary, plus the cost of its recruiting work — about $10,000 to $15,000 — as well as a separate charge equal to 10 percent of the one-third director salary fee, Heltzel said.

The port authority oversees operation of the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport in Vienna.

It also has the ability to make loans through bond financing to attract companies to the Mahoning Valley by buying and developing property and building and improving infrastructure, Heltzel said. The authority’s economic development ability hasn’t been used.

Ryan said he expects this effort will help turn around the financial condition of the two counties.

Money to pay for Heidrick & Struggles, the person hired to be the economic development director and other expenses related to economic development will come from $375,000 per year provided to the authority by Mahoning and Trumbull counties as well as Youngstown, Warren, Niles, Howland and the Western Reserve Building Trades Council.

Each has committed to providing that funding for three years for this effort. But a few days ago, Mahoning County Administrator George Tablack said financial problems means the county, which is providing $100,000 annually, might not have the money for the economic development director in the third year.

Other communities are invited to help fund the effort.

The person hired by the authority board would work with other economic development agencies in the area, Ryan said.

As for who will be hired as director, Ryan, D-17th, said: “Quite frankly, it’s not going to be a local political hire. I think that’s important for the community to know. It’s going to be someone [who’s] proven themselves probably outside of this area or they may be from here and have left. This is not someone’s brother or someone’s cousin that’s going to get the job done.”

When asked if that’s been the case with other hires, Ryan said that’s the public perception when a government job opens.

Other members of the committee that selected the search firm are: Howland Township Administrator Darlene St. George; John Masternick, chairman of Port Authority Board; Rick Schiraldi, director of strategic development for the Port Authority; Steve Papalas, a Niles councilman; and Rick Leonard, district director of Ryan’s Warren office.


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