Embattled Port Authority OKs Lease, Potential Carrier

VIENNA TOWNSHIP, Ohio -- The Western Reserve Port Authority’s board of directors approved a deal Tuesday with a new company owned by developer Brian Ross to take over the former air cargo building at Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, for use as a corporate hangar and air flight facility.

Following the first of two executive sessions, which stretched its monthly meeting to three hours, the board authorized Dan Dickten, director of aviation for the airport, to enter into a lease for the building with YNG West Aviation LLC, which is owned by Brian Ross of Ross Development, Cortland. Ross has two aircraft on the airport property now. The board also authorized Dickten to seek bids to make improvements to the building.

The five remaining members of the port authority’s board of directors appeared committed to moving forward with the business of the port authority, even as the boards of commissioners in Mahoning and Trumbull counties edge closer to dissolving the entity. The two county boards of commissioners held a second meeting June 2 to continue their discussions about dissolving the port authority, which several of them view as dysfunctional.

Three members of the eight-member have resigned since late April and the two boards of commissioners, which each appoint four members, have not acted to fill the vacancies.

YNG West Aviation is proposing to build out the front of the air cargo building so it can be used as an aircraft hangar. The expansion would add 12,000 square feet and two aircraft doors to the 24,650-square-foot building, Dickten said.

YNG West Aviation will cover the debt service on the building and improvements, “approximately $1.25 million,” and pay rent, he said. The company will have the option of acquiring the building although it would continue to lease the 5.1 acres of land where it is located. YNG West will also add a fuel farm to the property to service its aircraft.

The Federal Aviation Administration “is going to love this because it returns the building back to the intended use, that being aeronautical,” Dickten said. FFA officials had objected to non-aviation use of the building.

Over the past three years airport officials have “talked with anybody that would talk to us about air cargo and there isn’t the market here to support it,” Dickten continued. “There is enough air cargo activity in Cleveland and in Pittsburgh to handle the demand right now,” he said.

YNG West Aviation will continue to sublease space to Niles Expanded Metals, which occupies about half of the existing building. Millwood Inc., whose lease ends this month, has relocated to the former Commuter Aircraft Corp. building, Dickten reported.  

Ross “would like to take occupancy as soon as possible,” he noted.

Additionally, the port authority board authorized Dickten to enter into an operating agreement with Aerodynamics Inc. of Kennesaw, Ga., to provide air carrier operations at the airport and to use the airport’s small community air service development grant and community contributions for an airline revenue guarantee. 

Aerodynamics has connections with network carriers “and is interested in providing daily service from this airport,” Dickten said. It would provide service to a connecting network airline hub airport. He was not sure at this stage what airline or destination is being discussed. 

“Are we keeping this close to our vest right now? You betcha,” he remarked.

In related business, the board also approved purchasing a passenger boarding bridge from Shaw Equipment Services for $180,699, contingent upon the airport signing a deal with an airline that uses regional jet aircraft. The bridge will accommodate aircraft up to a 737. 

The port authority board voted to appoint member Martin Loney as its vice-chairman. The position was vacated when Ron Klingle, the former vice-chairman, ascended to chairman following the resignation after last month’s meeting of James Floyd.   

One of the remaining board members, Don Hanni III, expressed the hope during the meeting that the commissioners would appoint new members to fill the vacancies. “This demonstrates that we are moving forward,” he said.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
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