GALION — Galion City Council discussed the possibility of creating a port authority to help boost economic development during its meeting Tuesday evening.
“I certainly think it’s an idea that is unique and potentially beneficial to the city in a lot of areas I was not aware of,” said Thomas G. Fellner, council member at-large and chairperson of Economic Development and Airport Committee.
The proposed port authority, according to the language contained in Ordinance No. 2019-30, would serve two purposes for the city if approved. The first function would be “to enhance, foster, aid, provide or promote transportation, economic development, housing, recreation, education, governmental operations, culture and research in the City.”
The second function of the authority would be to “create or preserve jobs and employment opportunities and enhance the availability of adequate housing consistent with Article VIII, Sections 13 and 16 of the Ohio Constitution.”
Shirley Clark,council member at-large, asked about funding for the port authority. Mayor Tom O’Leary said revenue could be generated by three sources.
“To start up, the revenue, to some extent, is going to have to come from the city or other public entities; what I consider start-up money,” O’Leary said. “Once the port (authority) is formed and projects start to take shape — let’s take as an example a commercial building that might be a grocery store — the funding for that project would come from local banks that would provide the revenue to the port and the debt would be secured by the payment of the tenant. … The third source of income would be income from any of the projects.”
Tammy Siclair-Erlsten, 4th Ward council member, asked O’Leary specifically how much “start-up money” the city would be asked to contribute to the port authority.
“I would say in the neighborhood of $100,000 to $150,000,” O’Leary said, noting that actual development activity would probably begin in 2020. “I’m hoping the council will see it as a good investment. And then once the port authority is up and running, it’ll generate its own income.”
O’Leary said the port authority would also have access to funds through the Regional 166 Direct Loan Program, which, according to the Ohio Department of Development website, “promotes economic development, business expansion, and job creation and/or retention by providing low interest loans to businesses who may have limited access to adequate capital from private sources of financing.”
Under the terms of the local ordinance, the port authority would be supervised by a five-member board of directors appointed by the mayor with the approval of city council. The Economic Development and Airport Committee is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 21 to interview candidates for the board of directors.
“My hope is that we’ll nominate and approve people for the board who have run businesses, operated as bankers, understand and are part of the professions that you need to be able to design facilities, manage their construction, pay for their debt, and add to the job and investment base in the community,” O’Leary said. “The port authority (board) members are going to be key in determining what projects make sense — make dollars and sense — and which ones are not good investments.”
According to the Ohio Council of Port Authorities website, there are 59 active port authorities across the state of Ohio. The closest ones to Galion are the Marion Port Authority in Marion (created in 2003) and the SST Port Authority in Tiffin (created in 2014), which serves Sandusky and Seneca counties and the City of Tiffin.
According to the SST Port Authority website, over the past four years, the region it serves has experienced an upswing in development with the creation of more than 1,200 jobs, investment totaling $275 million, and the initiation of more than 300 economic development projects.