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Quality board appointments drive growth

High levels of competence coupled by the cooperative attitudes of members of the Western Reserve Port Authority board of directors are resulting in good things for area business and our Mahoning Valley in general.

The latest appointment to the board, Poland businessman Ed Muransky, came in recent weeks and proves to us that county commissioners, who appoint board members to their multiyear terms, are serious about continuing to keep the bar high in order to continue the good work being done by the port authority.

Muransky, chairman of the board and founder of Muransky Companies, a business management company, also serves as founder, chairman, CEO and majority owner of the Surgical Hospital at Southwoods in Boardman.

His appointment was made last month by Mahoning County commissioners.

Muransky, a former NFL player, also is founder, chairman and CEO of Chestnut Land Company, the holding company for Auntie Anne’s Soft Pretzel franchises operating throughout the United States. He also is active in many local community groups that focus on youth.

Muransky’s knowledge of business and clear love of the Mahoning Valley makes him an excellent appointment to the board — equaling that of his seven counterparts.

He will take a seat alongside Chairman Martin Loney, an area labor leader; Vice Chairman Sam Covelli, Warren area businessman; and other community and business leaders including Richard Edwards, Kathleen Dillon-Kennedy, Ron Klingle and David Detec. Board member Sterling Williams’ term is expiring, and we trust that Trumbull County commissioners will appoint an equally valuable new board member to fill that post.

We make these points today because it was not that many years ago when infighting and dysfunction among members of this valuable board got so bad that commissioners from both Mahoning and Trumbull counties began meeting in joint session to consider dissolving the board.

In fact, antics among those board members at that time became such an embarrassment for the Valley that it spiraled into a detriment to those attempting to bring new business or grow existing operations here.

But when commissioners in both counties began raising the bar on their board appointees, the direction of the port authority started to change.

Due in large part to the high level of professionalism exhibited by today’s board and the people it employs, the port authority, through its economic development arm, quietly has been achieving good things for area businesses and communities in our Mahoning Valley.

The port authority had been created in 1992 to operate the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, but it also is able to use the unique powers granted to port authorities under Ohio law to promote growth and economic development in the Mahoning Valley.

That’s a powerful tool that in recent years has amounted to progress and business success for both counties.

A few recent examples include the port authority using its capital lease and tax exemption powers to push forward several projects, perhaps most notably Ultium Cells LLC, the new GM-LG Chem joint automotive battery-making venture being built in Lordstown.

Other notable projects the port authority brought into the capital lease program include the Campus Lofts student housing at Youngstown State University. In these types of agreements, the port authority owns the project and leases it back to the company for a period of time, typically five years. It’s a financing mechanism that port authorities in Ohio have available to exempt sales tax on construction-related materials, helping to spur new construction due to the potential savings.

Also within the past five years the local port authority expanded into real estate development and management, mostly through donations, but also through acquisitions.

Last year, for example, Western Reserve Port Authority accepted a donation of 231 Main Ave. SW, Warren. The building previously housed Eastern Gateway Community College’s former Warren campus and, before that, Mickey’s Army / Navy store.

Another cooperative agreement is pending with BDM Warren Steel Holdings LLC, owner of the former Republic Steel property in Warren, to donate the land to the port authority for redevelopment. Its size is nearly 1,000 acres, stretching along Pine Avenue SE and including portions of Warren, Niles, Howland and Warren Township.

There is much more. But suffice to say that under the cohesive work of this port board, coupled with its small but mighty management team that includes CEO John Moliterno; Anthony Trevena, chief operating officer; and Sarah Lown, public finance manager, operations have been successful and noteworthy.

Together they have been able to assist in economic development growth for our Valley. We applaud the team for their good work and urge them to continue in this direction.

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