WESTERN RESERVE PORT AUTHORITY Board backs land transfer to steel plant

Warren Fabricating has local incentives but also is looking at other sites.
VIENNA -- The Western Reserve Port Authority intends to transfer 111 acres of its foreign trade zone to Warren Fabricating, which wants to expand its operations in Hubbard Township.
Actually, the move approved by the port authority board Wednesday would shift the foreign trade zone designation of 111 of the 819 so-designated acres at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport to Warren Fabricating's 7845 Chestnut Ridge Road site.
Paul Theisler, Warren Fabricating's vice president of finance, explained that a foreign trade zone reduces or eliminates duty payments on imported products, saves on transportation processing fees, and allows a company to take direct delivery and to clear customs at its own facility.
The company fabricates steel for heavy industry and plans to begin construction of a 540,000-square-foot manufacturing facility April 1.
"We're looking at bringing in slabs from overseas," Theisler said. They would be broken down here for use and sale domestically at a lower production cost.
International competition
"What this foreign trade zone would do is really help keep us competitive in the world market. China is taking a big chunk of it right now," Theisler said.
The port authority runs the 1,400-acre airport in Vienna Township and is the landowner. It administers its foreign trade zone and can charge fees for users of the site. It also has the ability to carve out portions and reallocate it for business ventures.
The 111 acres involved are at the airport's southern boundary.
Warren Fabricating's expansion is expected to cost between $200 million and $210 million, and the company pledges to hire 100 additional employees within three years of the project's completion. Fifteen-year, 100 percent tax abatements have been approved by Trumbull County, Hubbard Township and Hubbard schools.
Even with all of these incentives, Warren Fabricating's final plans are still somewhat "up in the air," Theisler told the board, noting that sites in Grove City, Pa. and Toledo also have been studied. "We'd love to stay in the area. We've been here since 1967," he said.
The port authority board's land action Wednesday has support from the Northeast Ohio Trade and Economic Consortium, which is the grantee of 6,000 acres of foreign trade zone lands at 32 locations in seven counties, said Ronald DeBarr, executive director. It also requires approval in Washington, D.C. this summer by a national foreign trade zone association.
Empty building
In other development, an unidentified Pennsylvania company is looking at the 240,000-square-foot former Commuter Aircraft Corp. facility on 30 acres west of the airport's secondary runway, with the possibility of creating 30 jobs, said Steve Bowser, airport director of operations.
Commuter Aircraft Corp. in the late 1970s had plans to secure government grants and abatements for assembly of aircraft at the airport. Those plans fell through, and the big aircraft building erected there has been without a tenant.
Bowser was given a vote of confidence by the board, which removed the "interim" from his job title Wednesday.
Racetrack study
In other matters, members voted to commit $40,000 from county lodging tax proceeds to a feasibility study of an indoor racetrack proposed by Brant Motorsports of Wheeling, W.Va. They were urged to do so by Trumbull County commissioners, which is co-sponsoring with the port authority a federal Economic Development Administration application for $185,000.
That EDA money would be matched by another total $185,000 from the port authority, Brant Motorsports, Ohio Department of Development, Trumbull 100, Western Reserve Building Trades, and the Builders Association of Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania.
The study would zero in on market conditions and potential for the 40-acre covered racetrack. The track is proposed for near the airport would cost $300 million to build, and would initially seat 60,000.
The board noted that its problem getting a majority of its eight members to be present to vote at meetings is being compounded by the resignation last week of member William Kelly. The board treasurer told the board that his business commitments at Clear Channel Radio required more of his time.
Board member Michael Harshman said he wondered why member Thomas Petrarca has missed several meetings. Board Chairman William Reali said he would inquire. A by-law change that would remove a member who has missed three consecutive meetings was briefly discussed.
Member Clarence Smith was absent from Wednesday's session. Other members present were Scott Lynn, Joseph Maxin and John Masternick.