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Good afternoon, and thank you all for attending today’s luncheon. I want to especially thank Salem Area Chamber of Commerce, Salem City Club and Salem Rotary for sponsoring the State of the City address each year. This collaboration is a perfect example of today’s theme: Salem is the Collaboration Capital, and we have made a video to highlight how the City of Salem has done this in the last year. It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Many thanks to Allied Video for proving that point. And now some introductions are in order: My husband and former Chief Justice of the State of Oregon Edwin Peterson. Before you at the head table is a collaboration of the highest order, the Salem City Council. We work hard to understand the issues and needs in our City, and even when we don’t agree on an issue, we still support and mentor one another, and share a commitment to making Salem the best it can possibly be. Ward 1 and Council President Chuck Bennett Ward 2 Laura Tesler Ward 3 Brad Nanke Ward 4 Rich Clausen Ward 5 Diana Dickey
Ward 6 Sheryl Thomas Ward 7 Warren Bednarz, our newest Councilor Ward 8 Dan Clem
Working with us are our highly professional city manager, department heads, Chiefs and Municipal Court Judge: Judge Jane Aiken City Manager Linda Norris Deputy City Manager Kacey Duncan City Attorney Randall Tosh Community Development Director Vickie Hardin-Woods Public Works Director Peter Fernandez Fire Chief Mike Niblock Police Chief Gerry Moore Urban Development Director John Wales Human Resources Director Connie Munnell Administrative Services Director Deborah Bond Our city employees deserve recognition for their daily work and for the many ways they assist in food drives, toy collections, blood drives, and numerous other community projects to make life in Salem better. A special Thank You to our Volunteers, from the City Council, to Boards and Commission members, and all those who give time in the library, the Center 50+, the Police and Fire Departments, parks, historic properties and neighborhoods.
They are vital to the smooth-running operations at City Hall and across our community. Today’s video represents the tip of the iceberg in a long list of projects undertaken and companies and residents that the City has collaborated with this last year. We have not held back because of the slow economy, but have moved forward to maximize government resources and private investment. The Council’s Goals and the city budget are templates for our work, and work we did! Through careful spending and necessary reductions we balanced the budget, saved reserves, and kept our AA bond rating. The Council’s highest priority is economic development and this last year we drove the investment of public and private dollars to upgrade roads, bridges, buildings, nurture startups and encouraged existing businesses to expand. Every one of these created new jobs and stimulated spending on construction, building and road materials, professional services and equipment. When residents passed the Streets and Bridges Bond, they committed to spending hard-earned money to improve our infrastructure. That money has also improved our economy. Local companies in Marion and Polk Counties have been awarded 75 contracts totaling almost $40 million. Local firms received over 89 percent of the contracts awarded through last November. Those are local jobs, local paychecks. And more projects are on the way. Just scanning the list of other infrastructure projects I totaled about $18.5 million spent recently on highway widening, water and sewer improvements, new parks, and flood repairs. These resources were a collaboration of FEMA and Federal Highway Administration allocations following last January’s flood, ODOT collected road taxes and City transportation, sewer and water funds, and System Development Charges. In the Riverfront/Downtown Urban Renewal Area the City leveraged $500,000 in toolbox funds to generate $3.5 million of private investment and more is starting this year. Three historic buildings at the intersection of State and Liberty are under or close to starting renovations that will bring new businesses, employees,
customers and residents downtown every day. These will be a catalyst and showcase for revitalization and redevelopment on a major level. In the South Waterfront Urban Renewal Area, owners of the former Boise property will soon be bringing plans to City Council. It is vital to get these projects off the drafting board and into reality. My vision for this area is that it will be the southern anchor for the Riverfront and Minto Brown recreation areas and a popular place to live, work, shop and do business. But we must do this right. Collaboration will be the key, and that’s why staff and the City Council have pored over developer’s plans and supports the development of stream side walkways and other work to link the area in front of the Civic Center to Pringle Creek and the Willamette River. But we need to do more. We need to explore partnerships with state and federal agencies, the Nature Conservancy, and the Audubon Society to truly reclaim the creek and the area around the slough, realizing that recreation and habitat restoration will bring people and dollars to the area. We must be creative and forward thinking as we contemplate what could be. We need to build upon the success of the Salem Conference Center and The Grand Hotel partnership and get a Yes We Can attitude for this important site. I continue to challenge our three Urban Renewal Advisory Boards to think BIG, and to remember that jobs and property value increases are the goals. I am pleased to say that the prodding is paying off. The Downtown/Riverfront URA is focusing on their Strategic Plan for the downtown and north Broadway areas and will be moving forward now that the Mobility Study and Housing Analysis are almost complete. Likewise, West Salem URA Advisory Board will be coming to the Agency soon with their vision for the Gateway Area. This is prime land at the intersection of Edgewater and Wallace, with connections to business and residential areas of West Salem. It’s time to turn rundown buildings and vacant lots into productive business, residential, retail and possibly lodging sites. And wouldn’t it be lovely to be able to see over Highway 22 to the Willamette River and Minto Brown Island?
Outside of the URA areas, we welcomed Bonaventure Living’s new presence in South Salem, and are delighted that they will soon break ground on their World Headquarters in the same area. T-Mobile now employs 400 and plans to add 300 more jobs at all levels this year. Garmen hired new employees, many of them engineers and professionals, and medical clinics opened in several areas of town. These are important jobs with solid paychecks and benefits. Not all economic development is anchored to the ground. A good example is Salem Airport, and the tremendous current and future impact it has on tax revenue and local jobs. The airport and its related businesses contribute 2,100 jobs regionally, $65 million in annual wages, and $240 million in regional business sales. Council will receive and I hope adopt the Salem Airport Master Plan update when it comes to Council on the 25th. But careful consideration of the businesses and property around the airport is vital. The economic impact of current and future businesses adjacent to the airport must be remembered as we set guidelines and restrictions on the size, use and height of buildings in those areas. We have always said that property development around the airport will attract more businesses, which will provide jobs and stimulate local aviation-related economic activity. We must remember that as we upgrade this facility to today’s and tomorrow’s needs. When I became mayor 2 years ago, I said that Salem needed to take responsibility and take ownership for its economic development efforts. I recognized the value of our partnerships with SEDCOR and Business Oregon, but we needed to be more strategic and holistic than in the past. Together with our private sector and public partners, the resources and expertise needed to be aligned to common goals. The money that the City of Salem allocates for SEDCOR, Travel Salem, and our cultural and historical facilities, must be strategically directed to support common visions for the future of Salem. The City Council reaffirmed that economic development was still our number one priority. But last year we became more specific and have identified five major employment and industry clusters that are at the heart of our economy: Agriculture, Technology, which includes Aviation and Related industries, Metals
Manufacturing and Fabrication, Chemical Manufacturing, and Education and Health Services. We are still working with SEDCOR and Business Oregon to maximize our efforts in these areas. With their recognition and support, we will see better results from the time and money spent. The new President of SEDCOR, Chad Freeman, has embraced this concept of working with our economic clusters. He is planning closely with our Urban Development Department to capitalize on our resources of shovel ready land in Mill Creek, and the Renewable Energy Park and other land and properties waiting development in Fairview Industrial Park, McGilchrist, Northgate, and other enterprise zones. But there is another very important shift in our thinking. Retention and expansion is taking a priority as we look to our roots and rededicate ourselves to the businesses and industries that are already here. Working with them to expand their space, add employees, or even relocate to more functional sites in our industrial parks will bring returns and add stability to our economic base. Our first cluster approach started this last year in three efforts: I launched the Mayors Forum on Agriculture, and brought together growers, processors, marketers, food and beverage makers, marketers, distributors and government agencies at the local, county and state levels. Through one-on-one meetings and the Forums, they have identified four main areas of need and opportunity with which the City of Salem can assist. Our collaboration with the Oregon Dept. of Agriculture, Marion and Polk Counties, the Farm Bureaus, Extension Agents and Ag industry associations will help us bring expertise and resources to start-up and mature companies. In addition to the Forum, Willamette University MBA candidates are studying how hazelnuts, blueberries and hops could better move from farms to markets. We are exploring whether a food and beverage small business incubator could be successful in our community. This focused attention on agriculture is already paying off as businesses that met at the Mayors Forum are networking, and others are encouraged enough by the City’s interest in their industry to put additional resources into their local operations.
My vision for the future is that Salem will become known as a Center for Taste. High quality food and beverage products that are grown, harvested, processed, and prepared locally are being served in farmers markets, restaurants and homes here and abroad. Exports of products like blueberries, apples, nuts and wines and beers are already creating jobs here and bringing dollars home from foreign markets. With the interest in locally grown and organic produce, meats, poultry and dairy products, and the growing popularity of local wines and beverage products, this region is poised to become a major supplier to local, domestic and foreign markets. This rise in the production and sale of ag products creates jobs not only in the fields and processing plants, and brings solid business for Salem bankers, accountants, lawyers, property appraisers, insurance, and vehicle and equipment dealers, just to name a few. And who knows, wouldn’t it be wonderful to have an indoor farmers market downtown that is open every day year round, bringing tourists and locals into the heart of our city and really putting Salem on the map. While we emphasize economic development at City Hall, we have not forgotten that Public Safety continues to be a priority for our Council and staff. Even with last year’s reductions, police and fire responders are meeting goals and responding to calls for service in a timely manner. In fact, the Fire Department has been able to meet the City Council’s response time goal of 5 and ½ minutes 74.3% of the time. That’s .3% better than in 2011, even though we have two stations closed much of the time. Our partnership with Rural Metro Ambulance has been an important part of this success. The Salem Fire Department continues to provide Community Emergency Response Training (CERT), certifying an additional 145 citizens last year, bringing our total for trained emergency volunteers to 900. They were a huge help during last year’s floods and are an important leg to our public safety stool. Salem Police Department continues its emphasis on community policing by collaborating with neighborhood watch groups, community organizations and working with youth and minority groups. Last Spring, we formed the Safe Streets and Parks Task Force, to address complaints and concerns from the public about
begging and loitering downtown, urban camping in our city parks, and the serious increase of homeless individuals and families in need of services and shelters. By bringing people from businesses, neighborhood groups, bicycle groups and park users together with representatives from mental health and addiction services, faith groups, shelter operators, and law enforcement officers, we began to understand the patterns that lead people into desperate circumstances, and the resources needed to turn this situation around. Three work groups have formed: one to address shelter needs, another to look at City ordinances and policies, and the third to develop a public information campaign about what to do to discourage panhandling and help people find the services they need. Salem is a community of natural resources and recreational activities second to none in the state. We have an abundance of open and green spaces, waterways for habitat and enjoyment, and parks with a wide variety of sports facilities and spaces for community activities. Research shows that recreation and community use of these spaces creates jobs and increases the value of adjacent properties. We have 82% of the funding needed for the Minto-Brown bridge and trail projects and you saw Hazel Patton on the video describe the collaboration between Friends of Two Bridges and the City. The organization has pledged to raise $400,000, and we have an application in for ODOT funding for the last $1.5 million. Marathons, boating and bicycling are just a few of the events this bridge will draw. But I have a vision beyond the recreational aspects that will come with the bridge and easier access to these three major parks. I believe that Salem and our surrounding areas could be on the map for sporting enthusiasts and the industries that supply them. Light manufacturing of bicycles, skateboards, snowboards, kayaks, camping and outdoor gear, exercise and sporting equipment and clothing could become another industry cluster, housed in existing industrial buildings and in close proximity to “outdoor testing sites” from the Cascades to the Pacific Ocean.
Salem is fortunate not only in natural resources and beauty. We are home to educational institutions providing quality educations from kindergarten through graduate degrees, all with a tradition of collaboration with the City of Salem. Salem-Keizer Public Schools has shown remarkable advancement in recent years, like the increased graduation rates at McKay High School. (include stats) The Ready to learn, ready to work collaboration between the Salem Chamber of Commerce, Salem Keizer Schools and the Salem Public Library is preparing students for further education and jobs. Salem Public Library has also worked with Marion County and the Salem-Keizer Education Foundation on the Reading for All initiative, and distribution of thousands of free books in an effort to make sure that everyone in Salem learns to read. Chemeketa Community College is a constant collaborator with SEDCOR and Job Growers to prepare workers for new jobs and sharpen skills of already employed workers. Willamette University has been rated among the top in the nation. Their students and faculty participate with the City of Salem on Advisory Boards, through internships and special projects, and community service efforts with the City. Just yesterday, Chuck Lee of Blanchet Catholic Schools called me to say that the City of Salem has been selected to receive their Partner of the Year award in recognition of the outstanding collaboration with them on their recent building project. He described how our Planning Department staff worked with them on permitting and building inspection, how the Police Department was always attentive and supportive and that individuals from the City and Council attended their events. These schools are working hard to prepare tomorrow’s employees. But today we need engineers, accountants, and technically skilled professionals to fill jobs that are waiting right here, right now. I have asked the Chamber and SEDCOR to devise ways they could help attract this workforce now, how they could “import brains” if you will, so that businesses and industries here can move to the next level.
Looking into the future, I see the third bridge across the Willamette become a reality so that congestion on both sides of the river will be disbursed and to bring people and goods faster and closer to their destinations. By the time we meet again next year, we will have celebrated the reopening of Courthouse Square and the return of employees and customers to our downtown. Plans will have moved forward for the 44 acres on Center Street which the Oregon State Hospital no longer needs. Yes, there is heavy lifting to do on these and other projects in the works, but through collaboration, I know we will get it done. -end-