The Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority is an economic development agency that initiates projects to improve property value and promote job creation throughout Hamilton County.
Transforming Cincinnati and Hamilton County.
Established in 2000, the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority is an economic development agency that initiates projects to improve property value and promote job creation throughout Hamilton County. The broad development-related powers granted under Ohio Revised Code 4582 as well as the extensive expertise of the Port’s staff allow it to take on complex projects that catalyze private investment. Under Vision 2022, the Port focuses on three key strategies for success: Industrial Revitalization, Neighborhood Revitalization, and Public Finance.
Frequently Asked Questions
Historically, port authorities were created to conduct maritime activities. The Ohio enabling statute was passed by the General Assembly in 1955 to promote the development of port facilities capable of taking advantage of the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway. In the 1970s, airport activities were added to the purposes of Ohio port authorities and, beginning in 1982, Ohio amended its port authority statute numerous times, primarily to permit port authority powers to be used for economic development activities and to be employed cooperatively with state agencies and other political subdivisions.
Yes, a port authority is a governmental entity for all purposes, empowered by applicable provisions of Chapter 4582 of the Ohio Revised Code (“Port Act”). A port authority is a “body corporate and politic” and for some purposes a political subdivision, but must be created by local government(s). Port authorities are each governed by a board of directors appointed by elected officials, and have the responsibilities of a governmental entity including holding public meetings and making its records available for public inspection.
As independent units of government, Ohio port authorities may conduct the traditional water, air and other transportation activities, as well as own property and provide financing for local economic development initiatives. Ohio law defines the “authorized purposes” of a port authority (and provides various powers to port authorities to further those authorized purposes) as follows,
- Activities that enhance, foster, aid, provide, or promote transportation, economic development, housing, recreation, education, governmental operations, culture, or research within the jurisdiction of the port authority.
- Activities authorized under Sections 13 and 16 of Article VIII, Ohio Constitution (permitting aid to private enterprises to promote economic development and housing in Ohio).
Many provisions of the Port Act that authorize particular activities of Ohio port authorities, including cooperative activities with other political subdivisions and issuing revenue bonds to finance such facilities, depend on the facilities qualifying as a port authority facility. The Port Act defines a port authority facility as…
real or personal property, or any combination thereof, owned, leased, or otherwise controlled or financed by a port authority and related to, useful for, or in furtherance of, one or more authorized purposes.
Ohio port authorities are formed by other political subdivisions, and are governed by the Ohio constitution, the legislation creating the port authority and, if two or more subdivisions join in its formation, by an agreement between them. That agreement, or the formative legislation, must cover a limited number of items, including the composition of the port authority board of directors. Subject to the other governing documents, the board of directors typically adopts bylaws or regulations providing for the administration, operations, staffing, and governance of the port authority.
A port authority’s area of jurisdiction generally includes all the territory of the political subdivision or subdivisions that create the port authority; and if a port authority owns or leases a railroad line or airport, the territory on which the railroad’s line, terminals, and related facilities or the airport’s runways, terminals, and related facilities are located, regardless of whether the territory is located in the political subdivision or subdivisions creating the port authority.
Generally, no. With limited statutory exceptions, a community may not be included in the territorial jurisdiction of more than one port authority.
The broad powers of a port authority make it a useful tool for economic and other development purposes. Under Ohio law, port authorities are authorized to, among other things:
- acquire real and personal property;
- own, lease, sell, and construct improvements to real property;
- issue revenue bonds for port authority facilities;
- issue voted general obligation bonds for port authority facilities and other permanent improvements;
- levy voted taxes for all purposes of the port authority;
- receive federal and state grants and loans and other public funds;
- operate transportation, recreation, governmental or cultural facilities, and set rates and charges for use of port authority facilities;
- cooperate broadly with other governmental agencies and exercise powers delegated by such agencies;
- accept assignments of TIF service payments and special assessments;
- maintain confidentiality within statutory limits for private enterprises;
- establish and operate foreign trade zones;
- appropriate property for public use, convey or lease property to (and accept or lease from and exchange with) other governmental units;
- and straighten, deepen, and improve channels, rivers, streams or other water courses.
A port authority may levy up to one mill of property tax on property within its territorial jurisdiction for port authority purposes, but only with approval of voters. The tax levy may not exceed five years, subject to renewal, except when approved for a general obligation bond issue. The election is held and all customary procedures are followed under general Ohio law for submitting the question of the tax levy (and any general obligation bonds) to the voters. Several Ohio port authorities do levy taxes, but only one small general obligation bond issue has ever been completed (in 1960 for port facilities at Toledo’s Great Lakes port).
A port authority can issue debt instruments in several forms: (1) Port authority revenue bonds that are limited special obligations payable only from specified revenues and funds pledged to their repayment, (2) voted general obligation bonds payable from the tax levy (limited to one-mill) approved as part of the election on the bond issue, (3) notes issued in anticipation of authorized bonds, and (4) tax anticipation notes issued in anticipation of, and payable only from, a fraction of the proceeds of a voter-approved levy.
No. Port authorities may not levy a tax unless approved by the voters and voted taxes do not impact the 10-mill unvoted tax limit. Any port authority general obligation bonds (and none have been issued since 1960) have separate direct and indirect debt limits that do not affect debt limits of other political subdivisions. Revenue bonds are outside of all debt limitations.
No, a port authority does not satisfy all of the necessary criteria to compete for community development block grant funds; however, a municipality can provide such funds to a port authority for a qualifying purpose.
Yes. Subject to various limitations, and pursuant to generally-applicable provisions of Ohio law regarding eminent domain, a port authority may exercise the right of eminent domain to appropriate property or property rights necessary or proper for an authorized purpose.
Port authorities are public agencies governed by Chapter 163, Ohio Revised Code, as amended, and as such are subject to the limitations on taking property for economic development purposes, as implemented by those amendments (generally requiring blight). In addition, port authorities are subject to the provisions of Revised Code Section 163.021 which provides a veto right, upon request of the landowner, to the elected agencies that create an unelected agency, and must give notice of that possible veto right.
Port authority property used solely for authorized purposes is generally exempt from property tax, and the acquisition of such property may generally be exempted from sales and use taxes. The property tax exemption is not available, however, if the property is occupied or used by a private business under a lease with a remaining term of more than one year. A port authority has no independent power to grant tax exemptions or abatements.
A port authority bond fund is a credit-enhancement vehicle based on a system of common “program” reserves established in special funds of the port authority deposited with a qualified corporate trustee. Those program reserves, additional reserves funded in connection with each series of revenue bonds issued to finance costs of approved projects, the portfolio of loans that are made from those proceeds and the collateral for each such loan, are all pledged under the applicable trust agreement to support the revenue bonds issued for those projects. The program reserves are typically funded with a combination of local contributions, state loans (repaid only from investment earnings), and bank letters of credit.
A bond fund is a unique and important tool for economic development because it enables a port authority to provide real value to many projects for which it could only otherwise act as a “conduit” and to much smaller projects. Port authorities have also pooled the resources of their bond funds and of state programs to provide financing for projects of significant size and have used their bond funds to fill funding gaps on major economic development projects.
Ohio Revised Code Chapter 4582: Port Authorities – http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/4582
Development finance is the efforts of local communities to support, encourage and catalyze expansion through public and private investment in physical development, redevelopment and/or business and industry. It is the act of contributing to a project or deal that causes that project or deal to materialize in a manner that benefits the long-term health of the community. At the center of development finance are Development Finance Agencies (DFAs).
DFAs can be either public or quasi-public/private authorities – such as the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority -- that provide or otherwise support economic development through various direct and indirect financing programs. DFAs may issue tax-exempt and taxable bonds, provide credit enhancement programs, and offer direct lending, equity investments, or a broad range of access to capital financing mechanisms.
CDFA, the Council of Development Finance Agencies, helps define how DFAs help by compartmentalizing tools into basic categories, called the “development finance spectrum.” The development finance spectrum graphically depicts how specific tools play a role:
The dark columns represent, generally speaking, the spectrum of projects that the development finance industry is seeking to finance. The light bars represent the general types of development finance tools available. The Port Authority has developed tools in each area – find out more about each here.