By Ed Runyan
Her job will be to attract employers who will bring jobs to the area.
VIENNA — Rose Ann DeLeon isn’t quite a rock star, but her credentials in the economic-development field put her practically on that kind of pedestal, said the chairman of the Western Reserve Port Authority.
“We’re very fortunate to have someone of her caliber,” John Masternick said of DeLeon, who has worked for the Cleveland- Cuyahoga County Port Authority since 1993 and was instrumental in arranging the financing for Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The local port authority hired her Wednesday to its new position of executive director, which puts her in charge of the port’s new economic-development wing.
She will not be involved in operation of the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, which the local port authority also oversees.
DeLeon will answer to the eight-member port-authority board, which consists of four members appointed by the Mahoning County commissioners and four by the Trumbull County commissioners, but the funding for her position is coming from communities represented on a port-authority advisory committee and from a congressional appropriation.
That advisory committee met last week, and it unanimously approved hiring DeLeon, said Masternick, who is also on that committee.
The members of the committee “were somewhat awestruck by her credentials and reputation,” Masternick said.
“I’m looking forward to helping the port authority board in working with businesses in both counties and in the communities in creating and retaining jobs with financing, foreign trade zones and other tools port authorities in Ohio have,” DeLeon said by phone late Wednesday.
City councils in Youngstown, Warren and Niles and county commissioners in Mahoning and Trumbull counties, as well as the Western Reserve Building Trades Council, have pledged about $1.3 million over three years to get the economic-development office started.
U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th, spearheaded the campaign to get the office started.
DeLeon will work out of office space in the Youngstown Business Incubator on Federal Street in Youngstown and the Trumbull County Administration Building in Warren to start, Masternick said. Eventually, she will have an office in the business incubator planned for Warren, said Masternick, owner of the Windsor House nursing-home chain.
Ultimately DeLeon’s job will be to create jobs for the area, and her contract reflects that.
Her base salary will be $155,000 plus benefits, but she can earn a bonus of up to $31,000 for meeting yet-to-be-established benchmarks for creating or retaining jobs here.
The bonus is also tied to creating a bond fund that officials have said is the key to attracting employers by offering them sales-tax advantages and bond financing that allows companies to borrow money at a much lower cost than is available through conventional loans.
The Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority’s Web site lists dozens of projects that have been made possible by that port authority’s use of bond financing from 1993 to the present. It boasts 8,000 jobs retained, 4,600 jobs created and $940 million in projects over 15 years.
Bob Dean, a Warren councilman, and DeLeon were two of the four people hired by the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority in 1993 to start up the economic-development division there. Dean was in charge of contract compliance and security on the hall-of-fame project and stayed on until 2007, when he retired.
Dean, a Warren native, said he tried to encourage local officials as early as 2005 to look at what the Cleveland port was doing with bond financing so that the Mahoning Valley could benefit from some of the ideas that were working in Cleveland.
“I said there was no reason we couldn’t do the same thing here,” Dean said.
He took Commissioner James Tsagaris to the Cleveland port’s offices in 2005 and had a meeting locally in 2007 that included staff members from Ryan’s office, plus economic- development officials from other port authorities in the state.