Suffolk’s progress report for 2017
By Mayor Linda T. Johnson
Just as we do in our personal lives as the calendar year comes to a close, I have reflected on the accomplishments and achievements in our city this past year and am pleased to share with you our “Progress Report” for 2017. My fellow City Council members and I are eager to continue to capitalize on our strengths and use them to make Suffolk an even better place for residents and businesses alike in 2018.
There is a saying that, “Life’s only limitations are the ones we make.” In Suffolk, there is no limit to what can be accomplished. Our level of success can be attributed to a strong, shared vision, with cooperative leadership, committed partners and engaged citizens.
As I look back on the past decade that I’ve proudly served as your mayor, we’ve announced more than 10,585 new jobs, and almost $1.3 billion dollars in capital investment. These are especially impressive numbers when you take into account that we also experienced one of the worst recessions in our nation’s history during that decade.
Others across the nation have taken notice of Suffolk in recent years, too, as we were selected as one of the “Top 100 Small Cities to Live In” by CNN Money Magazine, who considered factors such as good jobs, low crime, charm and recreational activities and many more attributes that make a city a great place to raise a family. NerdWallet also considered Suffolk among the “Best of the Best” accolades, naming us in their categories of “Best Places for Young Families,” and “Best Cities for Veterans in America.” In 2016, we were ranked second in the state by SmartAsset, a website specializing in investment and finance, for incoming investment to our city.
Suffolk’s National Night Out celebration is another source of pride. We’ve been consistently recognized nationally for how we put on our “going way party for crime,” and are the highest ranking locality in Virginia. National Night Out doesn’t work without involvement and commitment from our residents. Our focus has been on community events, and no matter the size, it’s the fact that people are coming together that is the most important outcome.
Financially speaking, we’re on solid ground. It hasn’t been easy, but we’ve achieved two AAA ratings, just a dream when I first came on council, and we’re one step closer to achieving a clean sweep in our prestigious fiscal standing with a positive outlook from Moody’s Investors Service.
With recent refundings in the utility fund, we have achieved savings that will allow for limiting future rate increases and passing those savings along to our utility customers.
Our capital improvements plan includes projects in all functional areas and leverages local funds to obtain financing from state, federal and other sources for major ventures. Vital transportation projects are comprised of 78-percent non-local funding sources.
Backed by an impressive 8.4-percent population surge since 2010, the highest in Hampton Roads, it is clear that people are saying “Yes Suffolk.” The construction of a new elementary school, a new middle school, new recreation centers, increased waterway access and numerous public infrastructure projects are just a few examples of direct municipal responses to the welcoming population.
Suffolk attracts a diverse mix of industries thanks to our prime mid-Atlantic location, room for expansion and pro-business climate. Each year brings a host of new businesses that opt to establish roots here because they are confident that it is the smartest growth strategy for them.
The tremendous growth of Suffolk inhabitants has also spurred substantial commercial development. New, mixed-use developments featuring a variety of housing scenarios combined with desirable retail and office suites have emerged in busy development corridors of the city. World-class medical and health care providers such as Sentara and Bon Secours, new hotel construction, restaurants and a multitude of vibrant and livable neighborhoods can all speak to the strength of our economy.
Proximity to the Port of Virginia and convenient access to rail and highway continue to be important facets of an efficient supply chain to many of Suffolk’s industrial companies. Advanced manufacturing, food and beverage processors and many distribution centers rely on our infrastructure network in order to receive and ship out materials or finished product. We are honored that established icons including Planters Peanuts, Lipton Tea and Birdsong Peanuts have long called Suffolk home. Other well-known existing companies such as Target, Ace Hardware, Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA, Smucker’s and, soon, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, all manage industrial operations within the city boundaries.
The technology sector in Suffolk is ripe with opportunity. Navy Cyber Information Dominance Forces employ a significant number of cyber warriors whose goal is to protect our military and country from intelligence threats. Their neighbors include J7 Joint Staff, who train and develop joint programs across branches of the Department of Defense. We are also pleased that Old Dominion University’s Virginia Modeling & Simulation Center, an enterprise research center focused on advances in modeling and simulation and data analytics, calls Suffolk home.
I am especially excited about what is on the horizon for our historic downtown. This year’s Downtown Suffolk Design Workshops offered residents and business owners the opportunity to “roll up their sleeves” and share ideas on what they would like to see in future planning for downtown. The results offer an exciting glimpse into what downtown Suffolk can become. We’re already moving forward, and private investors are enthusiastic, as well, with the city’s newest art gallery showcasing painters, photographers, sculptors and other artists and their wares recently opening. In addition, the first privately owned co-working space is conveniently located just steps from City Hall, and the first brewery will soon add to downtown’s eclectic vibe and energy. The Division of Tourism also has a number of initiatives that are bringing people downtown and helping make Suffolk a destination.
The potential of what Suffolk has to offer is vast, and with precise goals and objectives in place, we can all continue to move in the right direction and keep our city in a role as a leader in Hampton Roads.
A New Year is like a blank book. The pen is in our hands. It’s our chance to write a beautiful story together. We hope you join us in looking towards a 2018, where anything is possible in this great city.
Mayor Linda T. Johnson
Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett, Cypress Borough
Council Member Curtis R. Milteer Sr., Whaleyville Borough
Council Member Donald Goldberg, Suffolk Borough
Council Member Tim Johnson, Holy Neck Borough
Council Member Michael D. Duman, Chuckatuck Borough
Council Member Roger W. Fawcett, Sleepy Hole Borough
Council Member Lue R. Ward Jr., Nansemond Borough