Good morning everyone and welcome to 2016! I hope that this year is successful and happy for you and your family and for your City.
One of the things I learned when taking this job is that you need to take breaks from time to time to stay energized and fresh. I took vacation over the Christmas break and I’m back now and looking forward to the new year.
We are very excited about 2016. AK Steel’s Research and Innovation Center is under construction at the highway. 216 new luxury apartments are under construction on Towne Boulevard. NTE’s gas fired power plant is under construction. Later this year, the new schools will be under construction. At the Mall, Planet Fitness should be open in the next few weeks and new outlots should start construction this spring. At long last, we should finally begin construction on a new gas station on the old putt putt property along Commerce this spring.
The key for us is to continue to work on bringing new projects, jobs, retail establishments and economic development to the City. We’ve made a nice start, but that’s all it is… a start. Our long term success is based on truly changing the tax base by adding new businesses to the mix and supporting our existing businesses, allowing them to thrive and expand.
We’ll be interviewing this week for the new Economic Development Director. There are few positions more important in the organization than this one, and we hope to find the right person to lead us on to additional business recruitment and retention success as we move forward.
As I’ve caught up on the Journal while I was gone, I saw an article on the potential dog park which seemed to generate a lot of interest, both positive and negative. As is often the case, the Journal has a very limited amount of space to cover a larger story. It’s just the nature of the news. If the dog park is a 10 step process, we are only at step 2 right now. Council has indicated that they would like more information. At this point, we have no design, no budget, no location, no policies and procedures, no plan to build or sustain the park… you get the picture. My guess is that over the next year we will explore this more thoroughly and it will either take a more definitive shape with details or it will be abandoned as a good idea that just didn’t work under the current situation. Right this moment, there’s nothing to get excited about either way.
There’s one more line of discussions that I’d like to address this morning. I’ve seen it recently with the dog park concept and the designated outdoor refreshment area downtown. The discussion looks something like “I don’t know why there are doing [insert project here]. With all of our problems, that isn’t going to fix Middletown.” If that’s your comment, I respectfully suggest that you’re missing the bigger picture. First, these types of projects are not designed to be home runs, they are designed to be helpful in some small way to the City. A dog park may add to the quality of life of dog owners in the city, but it is not going to turn Middletown around. It was never intended to do that. Just because it doesn’t solve all of our problems on its own, however, doesn’t mean it isn’t potentially a good idea. Second, there seems to be an ongoing feeling that if we are looking at a dog park, nothing else is being worked on. That is simply not the case. Why wouldn’t we work on ALL of the things we need to do to improve the city, large and small, at the same time? You have several economic development projects underway in the City. You have the Central Avenue paving project ongoing and we will be starting another $3 million paving project next spring. We have added quality of life events such as the July 4th fireworks to make life more enjoyable in town. We will continue to expand on infrastructure repair, economic development efforts and quality of life issues as revenues improve.
We’ll be working on ALL of it at the same time and we will be successful. Some projects will be big. Some will be small. Some will impact everyone. Some will benefit a smaller group. Look at the merits of each project, but don’t get caught in the trap that having a designated outdoor refreshment area somehow means that we are not working on paving, jobs and quality of life. We’re Middletown. We can do it all and we can make it all happen over time.