Saturday, May 10, 2014

Allegheny County Airport Authority hires firm to run search for new CEO

The Allegheny County Airport Authority board approved a deal on Friday with a Maryland-based firm to conduct the search for a CEO who will be expected to attract flights.

Krauthamer & Associates Inc., based in Chevy Chase, will be paid 30 percent of the hire's salary, which is estimated to be about $250,000. That would put the firm's payment at $75,000 plus expenses, according to what the board approved.

The board ousted former CEO Brad Penrod, 53, of North Fayette this year amid a push from the board and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald for more flights. Jim Gill, 46, of Moon, the former executive vice president, is acting executive director. Penrod made $214,465. Gill is paid the same in his interim role.

“The No. 1 goal of everyone is to find someone who can increase the number of flights and the frequency of flights,” said state Sen. Matt Smith, D-Mt. Lebanon, a member of the authority board. “The key will be finding someone who's not willing to accept that we've reached the ceiling for air capacity. We want to build that into the new CEO job responsibility.”

Smith said the director won't necessarily be paid $250,000; the salary will be based on the candidate. He described the $250,000 figure as a placeholder.

The salary would rocket the airport CEO to the top of the pay list of county-affiliated employees. Port Authority CEO Ellen McLean makes $215,000.

The director of Cleveland Hopkins International Airport makes about $223,000. The airport director in Milwaukee makes about $143,000.

Airline experts said another CEO is unlikely to change Pittsburgh International Airport's fortunes. Airline mergers and economic turbulence caused the nation's domestic flights to drop in each of the past five years, falling a combined 16 percent.

Port Authority hired Krauthamer in 2013 to search for its CEO when it fired Steve Bland. Port Authority eventually tapped McLean, the chief financial officer. She had served as interim head of the organization for a year. The agency paid Krauthamer $80,566, Port Authority spokesman Jim Ritchie said.

Pittsburgh International is coming off a year in which it had fewer than 7.9 million passengers, its lowest total since 7.3 million people flew out of the former Greater Pittsburgh International Airport in 1975.

The airport has struggled to draw flights since US Airways dropped its hub there in 2004. Pittsburgh has an average of 148 daily flights to 37 destinations — down from more than 600 flights to 110 destinations in the early 2000s.