The CLEVELAND-CUYAHOGA COUNTY PORT AUTHORITY is the joint city-county board formed in 1968 to operate the Port of Cleveland. Although port authority proposals began circulating in the 1920s and 1930s, it wasn't until the 1950s that the Ohio general assembly authorized the creation of city, county, or joint city/county port authorities with the power to levy a voter-approved tax of up to .55 mill. Although the St. Lawrence Seaway opened in 1959, little action was taken locally until 1964 when the Cuyahoga County Commissioners saw that Cleveland lagged behind other Great Lakes ports in developing its facilities and proposed a joint city-county port authority. Its implementation was delayed until Mayor Carl Stokes made it a major priority, and on 4 Jan. 1968 the city and county agreed to create a joint port authority, with the city appointing 6 directors and the county 3. They also provided a lease-purchase arrangement whereby the authority could eventually buy the port facilities. On 8 May county voters approved a .13 mill, 5-year port authority levy which has been renewed since that time. The authority built 2 warehouses, expanded a third, and purchased 55 acres of land, including 18 acres from the Penn Central Co. in 1973 and the old Postal Annex in 1978. The federal government licensed the authority to operate a foreign trade zone and a subzone was created at the I-X Trade Center (see I-X CENTER) as well as other locations.
The Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority did not dramatically increase Seaway traffic into Cleveland. Although Cleveland benefited from the overflow business of crowded eastern ports, in 1984 local firms still found it cheaper to ship goods by rail to the port of Baltimore. In more recent years, the port has seen dramatic increases in tonnage, beginning in 1993 with a 76% increase over the previous year. 1994 followed with a 15% increase for an all-time record steel tonnage of 902,000 tons. As inland freight rates continue to rise, more and more shippers are finding it cost effective to move their goods direct by water, rather than using East Coast ports. Cleveland's location on Lake Erie is once again paying off in benefit to the economy of the region.
In 1995 the Port Authority continued to collect approx. $1.4 million per year from the smallest county tax levy (.13 mill). With the power to tax and issue bonds, it will continue to play a major role in Cleveland's lakefront development for both industrial users and visitor attractions, such as the ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME and the Science, Technology & Environment Museum.