Suffolk remains strong, mayor says

Published 10:03 pm Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mayor Linda T. Johnson chats with Brian Williams, manager of the Hilton Garden Inn Suffolk Riverfront, after the speech.

The city of Suffolk is continually adding to its story and looking to write the next exciting chapter, according to Mayor Linda T. Johnson’s State of the City address.

The annual Chamber of Commerce luncheon event drew more than 400 attendees from throughout Hampton Roads to Suffolk’s downtown Hilton Garden Inn. The business and community leaders were treated to the mayor’s literary-themed speech, lunch and a dessert reception.

Johnson used the opportunity to highlight a variety of accomplishments in the city throughout the past year, from completed public safety initiatives to increased economic development possibilities.


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“As we tell our story, we are marketing who we are and what we have to offer to the businesses looking for a place to set up shop, to tourists looking for a place to visit, to conventions looking for a place to meet and, of course, to families looking for a place to call home,” Johnson said. “We can’t ignore the fact that we are facing continued challenges, but my trust is in the future.”

Video clips were interspersed throughout Johnson’s speech, adding visuals and quotes from others to the presentation.

“If I had to pick just one accomplishment of 2010 that I’m most proud of, it would be when I learned that Suffolk had been selected as one of the top 100 small cities to live in by CNN Money magazine,” Johnson said near the beginning of the speech.

She went on to highlight business growth in the city that led to more than $71 million in capital investment by dozens of new and existing businesses in 2010, along with 909 new jobs and more than 630,000 square feet of new or newly occupied commercial space.

“As we continue to focus on economic development as a priority, we will celebrate these successes, continue to safeguard the economic assets we have in place, and look at new ways to not only continue to bring industry to Suffolk, but to also support our existing industry and businesses,” Johnson said. “We are dedicated to working with our business community to help create an environment where they can prosper and grow.”

Johnson added that even with the challenges brought by the disestablishment of U.S. Joint Forces Command, high-tech companies continue to invest in the North Suffolk area.

“Optimism about the North Suffolk technology corridor is unwavering, and we will work upon that,” Johnson said.

Housing options are another aspect of a growing city, and Johnson highlighted the upcoming Homearama in North Suffolk and the fledgling Fairgrounds development in the downtown area as two options for people looking to call Suffolk home.

In the education chapter, Johnson mentioned the academic, athletic and artistic accomplishments of Suffolk Public Schools, including each school being state-accredited.

Quality of life continues to improve, too, Johnson said. Sentara BelleHarbour, Bon Secours Health Center and a recent addition to Sentara Obici Hospital are among the expanding health care options. A number of new restaurants and recreational facilities have opened in the past year, and the city also opened the King’s Fork Public Safety Center last August, which houses a fire station, fire department administration and an emergency operations center.

Johnson also touched on the budget proposal, which includes a 6-cent tax increase for the city’s homeowners.

“Our City Council recognizes that the current budget is not popular,” Johnson said. “But our city chooses to face its challenges head on, as we know that the test of leadership can only be won by taking necessary and yes, sometimes unpopular, stand in times when others would choose not to do so.”

Other areas highlighted in Johnson’s presentation included awards won by local businesses, individuals and city departments, green industry initiatives, the annual Peanut Festival, the recent return of native land to the Nansemond Indian Tribe and more.

“We’ve come too far and we’ve achieved too much to think about turning back now because of any uncertainties of tomorrow,” Johnson said. “We control our destiny and must write the next chapter of our history.”