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In an effort to increase economic development activity in the area, city officials discussed the creation of a Port Authority during the May 14 city council meeting. A port authority is a quasi-governmental entity authorized by state law that can facilitate capital investment, construct facilities, issue bonds, and sell or buy real and personal property.
Council held a first reading on legislation to establish a port authority and authorize it to “enhance, foster, aid, provide or promote transportation, economic development, housing, recreation, education, governmental operations, culture and research in the City.”
“This was first discussed by the Economic Development Committee,” Council member Tom Fellner said. “It’s a difficult idea to wrap your head around, but I certainly think it’s an idea potentially beneficial in a lot of areas.”
Mayor Tom O’Leary described port authorities as landlords for commercial property. “We need to do more to bring industry to the community. A Port Authority is ideally suited to acquire, develop, and market buildings.”
Port authorities also have more flexibility than government agencies for project financing and are not constrained by public bidding procedures or prevailing wage requirements.
He cited specific examples of projects a Port Authority could lead: Constructing a new building to house a grocery store, redeveloping the former PECO II building, and selling property for commercial or housing development.
The council legislation would also authorize the appointment of a board of directors for the port authority.
Mayor Tom O’Leary has approached people with various professional backgrounds to consider serving on this board. Those individuals will be invited to the next Economic Development Committee meeting on May 21.
Council member Shirley Clark asked how a port authority would be financed.
O’Leary responded there would be three primary sources. Start up costs would need to be funded by the city or other public entities. (The board would need to propose a startup budget and request funding.) As the Port Authority’s projects take shape, banks can issue debt which the Port then repays using proceeds from lease payments. Ports can also issue business loans offered through the Ohio Development Services Agency, which would be repaid by the recipient.
After discussion, the legislation was held to a first reading.