LAKE COUNTY – The Lake County Board of Commissioners gave its seal of approval to Mentor joining the Lake County Ohio Port and Economic Development Authority with the passage of a resolution expanding the Port’s Board of Directors from seven to nine members at its April 6 meeting.
Mentor had its own port authority, but its council had decided the city would benefit more from joining the county port authority.
“This has certainly been a long, winding path to get here,” said Mentor Council President Janet Dowling. “I was pleased to see our council unanimously pass 7-0 on Tuesday evening to dissolve our port authority to make this possible.”
Joining her at the meeting were Mentor Council Vice President John Krueger and City Manager Ken Filipiak.
Board President Jerry Cirino said the commissioners were pleased to have Mentor join the county Port Authority as well.
“The city of Mentor is certainly a tremendous partner,” he said. “We look forward to partnering with you and we appreciate the trust you’ve shown in the direction we would like to go in from an economic development standpoint.”
Art Lindrose, president of the Lake County Port Authority Board of Directors, said they were pleased to have the board expanded with the inclusion of the county’s largest city.
Commissioner Dan Troy said, as one of the commissioners who initially created the Port Authority 10 years ago, their intent had been to be able to take advantage of state provisions granted to port authorities. At the time, the county had an economic development center which did not have the same capabilities.
He noted existing port authorities could not be part of the county port authority but the county Port Authority was able to assist with some major projects in Mentor, which is the major economic center of the county.
Following the commissioners meeting a brief meeting was held with media personnel.
Cirino repeated how grateful he was that the Mentor had joined the county port authority. He noted that, while he was campaigning, going door-to-door, he found numerous people who wondered why the county and communities did not work together more.
“One of the things I wanted to try to help make happen, to the extent that I can, is improve the relationships and certainly Mentor, being the largest city and economic development machine in of itself, is the right kind of partner for us to have here,” Cirino said.
He added that he has been participating in discussions with developers and businesses who were interested in locating in Lake County.
With the increase in the number of Port Authority board members, it was explained that Mentor will have the option of nominating three positions on the board, as they become available, starting with one of the two new positions. All appointees must be approved by the Board of Commissioners.
For the other additional position, the commissioners would like to find someone suitable from the east end of Lake County since it has not been represented since Harry Allen of North Perry and Tony Debevc of Madison Township resigned.
“This expansion of the board is an opportunity for us to give representation to the east end where we have a different kind of economic development activity,” said Lake County Port Authority Executive Director Mark Rantala. “We’re looking forward to the commissioners’ selection of a new Visitors Bureau chief to work with because we want our marketing message to be clear.”
He noted the Port Authority had issued about $50 million in bonds for Mentor in 2016 and 2017.
Asked how the Mentor Port Authority had operated, Krueger said, “There were three members on that and it was a board with really no authority. We had no director. Our economic development primarily is from our (Mentor) Economic Development Department which our city manager has a director named Ron Traub. They have very qualified people there.”
Filipiak said Mentor benefits from joining the county Port Authority because it does not need to hire staff to offer the services port authorities can provide. In turn, the county Port Authority will receive more revenues by playing a greater role in economic development projects in Mentor.
Troy explained that, for example, the Port is receiving a fee for the $50 million in bond financing it arranged for Mentor. He added that the funds the county receives from the casinos is all directed toward economic development around the county.
Although Mentor is officially joining the county Port Authority in May, Rantala noted they have been working together already, and he had worked with Traub for 25 years when he was a commercial real estate broker.
“I think it was pretty interesting that we had both of these things happen the same day: the hotel tax that will let us tackle coastal development capital projects and the combination (of the port authorities),” Rantala said. “It wasn’t planned that way.”
PHOTO BY MARIAN MCMAHON
Mentor City Council Vice President John Krueger, Council President Janet Dowling and City Manager Ken Filipiak join county commissioners and Lake County Ohio Port and Economic Development Authority officials after the Board of Commissioners passed legislation which completed the process of Mentor joining the county Port Authority April 6.