Middletown to create its own port authority to facilitate economic development

Among its first actions of the new year, Middletown is planning to expand its economic development options by dissolving its community improvement corporation and creating its own port authority.

Middletown City Council today will consider an emergency ordinance to create a municipal port authority and revoke the agency relationship with Middletown Moving Forward, its community improvement corporation. Middletown Moving Forward was created in 2005 as part of the city’s master plan.

In a staff report, city Economic Development Director Chris Xeil Lyons said creating a port authority would enable the city to address its unique economic development needs.

A port authority has the same powers as a community improvement corporation and additional powers because it is a governmental subdivision. Unlike a CIC, a port authority can access more development support and incentive programs such as like tax-exempt bonding and the sales tax exemption program.

She said the creation of a port authority will put these economic development programs and board squarely within the city’s control and not subject to jurisdictions who don’t always have the same interests. Lyons also said the tax-exempt status of port authorities has the advantage of passing savings on to private economic development projects, thus making complex projects possible that might not otherwise happen.

Port authorities have the power to create a sales tax exemption programs; directly incentivize specific community needs such as additional infrastructure, open space, parks, and environmental and/or community assets; loan funding at competitive rates; acquire, own, sell, lease, or transfer property to economic development projects; and facilitate job creation projects/programs and all types of residential and housing projects/programs to fight blight and invest in neighborhoods.

In addition, city officials said the proposed city port authority will continue to cooperate with all others surrounding such port authorities as needed. The city would operate its port authority using its economic development staff and within the economic development department budget.

Matt Schnipke, Warren County economic development director and port authority deputy director, said the county and proposed city port authorities will work together and won’t change their relationships.

“We’ll work with them when projects make sense and we might help out through our bond fund for infrastructure improvements,” he said. “We enjoy a good working relationship with Middletown.”

The city, owners of Towne Mall Galleria and the Warren County Port Authority are partnering in a redevelopment plan to create a mixed use town center at the mall.

David Fehr, Butler County development director and interim port authority director, declined to comment as he was unaware of Middletown’s plans to create its own port authority.

In May 2017, Fehr, former county administrator Charlie Young, and former port authority director Mike McNamara, objected to Monroe City Council’s consideration of creating a municipal port authority.

After the presentation, no action was taken by Monroe council. However, City Manager Bill Brock said Monday the city would be doing an Economic Development Strategic Plan this year.

About the Author