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Mayor Fiorentini's address -- Feb. 4, 2009

Mayor Fiorentini's address -- Feb. 4, 2009

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State of the City address by Haverhill Mayor James Fiorentini, scheduled to be delivered at 6:30 p.m., Feb. 4, 2009.
State of the City address by Haverhill Mayor James Fiorentini, scheduled to be delivered at 6:30 p.m., Feb. 4, 2009.

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Published by: Eagle-Tribune on Feb 05, 2009
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05/10/2014

 
The State of the City, 2009Good evening…
Mayor Pelosi, members of the faculty, students—city councilors and all of you, welcome and thank-you for coming here this evening. I want to thank the faculty and staff of Zion Bible College for hosting this, the city council and school committee of Haverhill for their hard work over the past year.We have several members of our legislative team here with us and I want to thank our legislative teamfor their hard work in bringing millions of dollars to our city.
Times are tough
Tonight, as I speak to you, America is in the midst of the greatest crisis since the great depression.This Great Recession has not spared Haverhill, nor will it but even in the height of this recession, goodthings are happening here in HaverhillI would like to spend a few minutes with you showing you a power point with some good things aboutthe city.Five years ago, the shoe shop district next to our downtown was all abandoned shoe factories—fireswaiting to happen, and buildings that added little to our tax rolls.We worked together with the city council to remove regulatory barriers and rezone the old shoe shoparea and build a new urban village. Tonight, we see the fruits of our labors.The old 5
th
Avenue Shoe building, abandoned for nearly 5 decades tonight lives again as the CordovanProject, as young people, instead of moving out of a dying shoe city as they did for decades, aremoving back in.
A block away
, the abandoned Hamel Leather Buildings was once the largest shoe shops in the country, but they were closed for three decades, and the rear of the building became a dump yard, the buildingsthemselves abandoned fire traps, a blot on our downtown.Tonight, those abandoned factories are undergoing a $70 million investment in our new downtown— what was once the Hamel Leather Building is today the Hamel Mills Lofts.Those buildings Hamel Mills Lofts and the Cordovan, together bring with them $100 million in newinvestment in our downtown, $150,000 in new recurring tax revenues, and every day, in the height othe Great Recession, 200 people are employed at good jobs, remodeling those buildings.These young people bring with them a new sense of vibrancy to our downtown, and new spending power. In the heart of the recession, new restaurants have opened in our downtown and on a Saturdaynight, in an area that once was only abandoned shoe shops, people flock to the best restaurant zonenorth of the north end.This new enthusiasm in our downtown brings something else. It brings State and Federal dollars to
 
help stimulate our economy. This spring, we break ground on a new boardwalk downtown, fundedentirely with State and Federal dollars,And next year, we break ground on a new $10 million parking garage.But not all progress has been downtown.
On the outskirts of our city,
we rezoned the area, and removed regulatory barriers and recruited retailstores to come to our city.Today, the three largest retail stores ever to locate in Haverhill, BJ’s, Target and Lowes, are open for  business, with over 300 new jobs and $450,000 in new recurring tax revenues.Two years ago, we set out to go the extra mile to bring new manufacturing jobs to our city. We becamethe first city in the State to get a grant for expedited permitting; we were the first city in the State to bedesignated as a growth district by Governor Patrick. We set out to attract new manufacturing businesses not with fancy flyers and or an expensive advertising campaign, but with footwork. We goton the phones and into our cars, went to see the top executives and asked them to come to Haverhill.Tonight, in a building that had been vacant for years, Magellan Aerospace is open with 100 newmanufacturing jobs and new recurring tax revenues.That filled half the building, located right off of Route 97. Then we heard that Southwick Clothinghad to move from Lawrence, and they were considering moving to Thailand taking 300 jobs with them.Our economic development team got on the phone, got into their cars, and made the pitch—we wantyou here in Haverhill.Tonight, I am happy to announce that Southwick opens here in Haverhill later this month, and they bring with, in the height of the recession, at a time when millions of manufacturing jobs are leavingAmerica, 325 new manufacturing jobs to Haverhill.There are many members of the Southwick team this evening, and I would like them to stand and berecognized—welcome to Haverhill.And tonight, I am proud to be doing what president Obama did when he was sworn in, I am wearingclothing made by Southwick—the most high tech energy efficient and green clothing manufacturer inthe world. Thank you for coming to Haverhill!But perhaps our greatest triumph lies
underneath our feet
.We stand here tonight on what was once an abandoned campus. Our greatest triumph lies in listeningto the collective wisdom of our citizens, working with a neighborhood group to turn this abandonedBradford campus into Zion Bible College.Tonight, I say to our new neighbors, the faculty and staff, to the students, welcome to Haverhill.Many of the members of that neighborhood group that led the fight to bring a campus here are here thisevening and I would like them to stand and be recognized—thank you for your hard work.
 
Improvements in city government
Thank you again.
Despite our triumphs, the recession is upon us
But, for all of our triumphs, tonight, we face the greatest financial crisis in our lifetimes.
We have faced these challenges before
 No one knows exactly when this recession will end, but we do know this: we have faced greatchallenges before, and we have always prevailed.Think back just five years, when some were predicting that Haverhill’s bond rating would go down,and that we would go into receivership.Working together, we met that challenge. We consolidated departments and eliminated four topmanagement positions. We consolidated five employee health care plans into one, and then workedwith our unions to save $1.5 million a year on healthcare costs.We used techniques from private business to improve efficiency in city hall-- installed a new computer system, changed telephone systems, put GPS in city vehicles, instituted regional purchasing, crackeddown on city take home vehicles, and eliminated dozens of jobs from the payroll. Today, we have 43fewer people working for city government than we had when I took office 5 years ago.Those remaining city employees—43 fewer than the day we started—are truly Haverhill’s finest. Thatremaining, trimmed-down work force has improved customer service to the point where we have a95% customer satisfaction rate, patched more potholes and repaired more streets, kept streets clean,cutback on crime thanks to our great police department, fought every fire courageously thanks to agreat fire department, serviced more library patrons with a smaller staff and truly done more with less.I am very proud of our city employees, they do not get anywhere near enough thanks or credit for thegreat job they do, and any city employees who are here tonight, I ask them to stand and be recognized.But most of all, over the past five years, we imposed strict fiscal discipline. We said no tounreasonable union demands, we refused to spend what we did not have, and we set money aside for arainy day, a day we knew we would come.Instead of sinking into receivership, over the past five years we have had our greatest triumphs.Our bond rating didn’t go down, it went up. We were especially proud when a Wall Street firm,Standard and Poor’s, said one of the reasons it went up – good management, gave us the highest possible management rating that any city in the country can receive.

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