Mayor: State of city ‘strong’Published 10:38pm Tuesday, May 7, 2013
The city of Suffolk is building a strong future through financial progress, economic growth, educational attainment, public safety improvements, booming recreational opportunities and more, Mayor Linda T. Johnson said in her State of the City speech Tuesday.
“I submit to you that the current state of the city is strong and getting stronger,” Johnson said. “We should, all of us, be filled with gratitude and humility for our present progress and prosperity.”
The final event in the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce’s State of the City series at the Hilton Garden Inn on East Constance Road drew nearly 450 attendees from Suffolk and surrounding cities.
Drawing on a “Blueprint for Success” theme to make her case, Johnson highlighted the city’s improving credit rating, expenditure cuts and infrastructure investments.
“It is important that our citizens understand that the fiscal discipline and painful choices we’ve made in recent years have translated into solid financial health, even in these lean times,” Johnson said. “Because of the broad range of cost-cutting measures we implemented early on in the recession, we have remained on sound financial footing to this day.”
She called attention to the construction of the new municipal center, which she said “truly symbolizes just how far this city has come,” and to growing investment in downtown, including the recent announcement that The Monument Companies will renovate a strip of downtown buildings into 68 new loft-style apartments.
Economic development also continues to succeed, she said. Unilever recently announced its decision to keep its Lipton Tea plant in Suffolk and invest in $96 million of new equipment. She also highlighted last year’s openings of Ace Hardware and the Navy Exchange Command in the CenterPoint intermodal center off Holland Road.
The city added about 1,957 new jobs last year, she said, double the increase of the prior year.
Calling attention to the city’s schools, Johnson said the educational institutions are measuring success “one child at a time.”
“Their goal is to ensure that every graduate has discovered his or her strengths and passions, is prepared for college, the workforce or military, and has a plan to launch the next chapter of his or her life,” she said.
She also honored Suffolk’s public safety officers, called attention to tourism and recreation opportunities and thanked Delegate S. Chris Jones, who was in attendance, for his role in passing transportation funding legislation in the most recent General Assembly session.
Johnson also spoke of challenges the city faces, especially in transportation funding and continuing to “do more with less” as the economic recovery continues to advance slowly.
However, the city will move forward, she said.
“It is evident that over the years, in Suffolk we have done just that. We’ve not been content to rest on successes of the past, but have continued on, undaunted in our quest to make our city the very best that it can be.”