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Port authority to help finance Warren industrial park

WARREN — The Western Reserve Port Authority, which helped secure the land for a proposed modern industrial park in Warren, is helping again, this time by issuing up to $6 million in revenue bonds to help finance the project.

It’s the second time this week the West Warren Industrial Park — at the former Westlawn neighborhood on Warren’s west side — has gotten a funding boost. On Tuesday, the state announced a $4 million loan to aid in construction.

A day later, the port authority board agreed to issue and sell the bonds, which the project’s developers, West Warren Property 1 LLC, will repay over five years, as well as finalizing an agreement to bring the project into the port authority’s capital lease program — a move that could save the project hundreds of thousands of dollars in construction costs.

The capital lease program is a financing mechanism that port authorities in Ohio have available to exempt sales tax on construction-related materials.

“That just gives them the tax savings to help incentivize part of the capital tax,” Anthony Trevena, port authority executive director, said. “They will be in a lease with us for five years, and will be able to save on the taxes on the brick-and-mortar of the facility.”

The port authority helped pull together the project for Warren-based Sapientia Ventures, an affiliate of West Warren Property 1 LLC, and acted as a conduit to move the property — about 85 acres — from Warren and Warren City Schools to the company.

Ground on the approximately $12.5 million park was ceremonially broken in August, but it was announced in February 2023.

Construction on the first building, a 98,280-square-foot facility with five docks for trucks, is expected to begin in late July, with a steel skeleton erected later this year, said Wiley Runnestrand, a managing partner of Sapientia Ventures, after the state’s funding announcement.

The spec building should be ready to rent next year, Runnestrand said.

“Outside of Kimberly-Clark, this is the biggest thing in the Trumbull County area, especially in Warren,” Trevena said. “This is huge.”

Kimberly-Clark, well-known for such consumer brands as Kleenex, Huggies, Depend, Kotex and Cottonelle, in December acquired about 560 acres of the former RG Steel property for $9.9 million from the port authority, presumably for a manufacturing facility.

CONTRACT

The board also approved a new three-year collective bargaining agreement with members of Ohio Council 8 and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2312, which represent eight maintenance employees at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, which the port authority oversees.

Trevena said the employees also work at the former RG Steel property to help keep it maintained.

The agreement gives the workers pay increases of 5%, 3% and 2% and incentives for off-site work and longevity, Trevena said.

“We’re both satisfied,” Trevena said of the port authority and union. “We are expecting it to happen soon, to sign on their side, but in negotiations, they seemed comfortable with the pact.”

The board also agreed to sell two pieces of land, one at 4321 Mahoning Ave. for $35,000 to Judy Higgins-Reardon. The land, adjacent to the Austintown funeral home of Higgins-Reardon Funeral Homes and Cremation Services, contains an old building.

The other piece, 510 Gypsy Lane, Youngstown, is to Alan Mirkin for $10,000. The vacant land is adjacent to Allen’s Pharmaserv.

“They are going to the proper owners,” Trevena said. “These are the people who own businesses contiguous, they are the appropriate owners for the properties.”

The land is among 26 parcels the board acquired for $300,000 in 2023 from Steward Health Care. The purchase included several commercial office buildings, including 4321 Mahoning Ave., but the land was mostly used for parking lots or buildings, or was vacant. The idea in acquiring the land was to remediate properties, if needed, but return them all to productive use.

Have an interesting news story? Contact Business Editor Ron Selak by email at rselak@tribtoday.com.

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