State of the City 2012
Mayor White: Great strides made in 2011
As we open a new year filled with optimism, I am grateful to have this opportunity not only to look ahead to what promises to be a year of tremendous opportunity, but also to look back at 2011 and thank my colleagues on City Council for what they and our partners accomplished.
To be sure, we continue to face challenges. At the same time, the past 12 months has been a period of tremendous progress in a number of areas for our city. Indeed, recounting an entire year’s worth of activity would require much more space than I have here. However, there are three broad areas that I believe define much of what makes Spartanburg such a great place to live, to do business, and to visit: Strong Neighborhoods, First-Class Amenities, and Superior Opportunities.
1. Strong Neighborhoods: 2011 was a very big year for some of our most historic and culturally rich neighborhoods. In Beaumont Mill Village, Spartanburg Water System completed a major redevelopment of vital wastewater infrastructure, and the City approved the village’s designation as a historic district. Combined, the two projects have ensured a better quality of life for residents today while raising the profile of the village for potential community-minded investors.
The city’s Northside, meanwhile, has long been considered an area of great potential, in need only of the right spark. The opening of the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine to its first class of students in August is proving to be that spark. Besides making Spartanburg the only city in South Carolina with both a medical school and a business school in its urban center, VCOM’s opening speaks to new possibilities and future on the Northside. Already, the green shoots of future development have been seen in the announcement of the Northside Healthy Food Hub, a new garden, food market, and café that will open next year.
Finally, the city’s crime rate continues to fall, a credit to Public Safety Director Tony Fisher and his team, and the exceptional community policing response that city residents have come to expect from them. When it comes to deciding where to live, raise a family, and operate your business, our police and fire services provide two tremendous reasons to choose the City.
2. First-Class Amenities: The City continued to increase the type of quality of life amenities that attract new residents and businesses. I believe the City’s adoption of a more restrictive smoking ordinance was the right move. Citizens are benefiting from a public health perspective and it has been good for business. New retail development such as Old Navy, Toys ‘R’ Us, and Ollie’s as well as new restaurants such as Longhorn, Buffalo Wild Wing, Cribbs Kitchen, Spice of Life, and Zarza, among others, opened in 2011. The City is appreciative of the vote of confidence from these and many other business owners who choose to invest in the City. The City will continue its efforts to strengthen our downtown and will work cooperatively to foster more residential and retail development in our urban center.
We also continued to build on our foundation as a great city for outdoor recreation. South Carolina’s first and only “Bike Town,” the City opened 6 miles of new biking trails in Duncan Park in June, giving bikers an off-road alternative to complement the City’s paved Rail Trail. City Council also honored a long-standing commitment and started a $1.6 million renovation of Stewart Park in the Highland neighborhood earlier this year.
The City also continued to invest in essential economic development infrastructure with completion of a $4.4 million renovation to the Downtown Airport. A busy corporate traffic airport, the Downtown Airport gives Spartanburg an irreplaceable economic development advantage over many cities.
3. Superior Opportunities: Before I ever thought about running for City Council or for Mayor, I was a husband, father, and small business owner. So I can think of nothing more important than supporting local businesses and job creation. While acknowledging that our unemployment figure remains too high, it is important to note that overall retail activity in the City increased during 2011. The city will continue to improve on its programs to support new business development and will support Spartanburg’s long-term goals to raise educational attainment of our citizens.
The city is indeed fortunate to have so many renowned higher education institutions call it home, and both Wofford and Converse colleges completed significant capital projects in 2011 that will enhance the collegiate experience of their students, as well as strengthen the institutions and their impact on the city. Having just completed its first full year, the impact of “The George” – USC Upstate’s George Dean Johnson School of Business – on downtown has only just begun, and the City continues to make steady progress toward a downtown campus for Spartanburg Community College, what will eventually be the fifth college campus to locate in the heart of our city. I challenge you to find another city in the Southeast that can boast such a number.
From the creative class that has found a home downtown at the Showroom, the Coffee Bar, and the Chapman Cultural Center, to the high-tech innovation of QS/1, to our very own local brewery – RJ Rockers – housed just a stone’s throw west of Morgan Square, Spartanburg is becoming a magnet for both students and start-ups, artists and entrepreneurs, young families and retirees.
Again, our work is never done – and certainly our City has not yet “arrived.” But I want to applaud my colleagues on City Council, City Manager Ed Memmott, and his staff for their hard work. In spite of continuing economic uncertainty across the nation, prudent fiscal planning and responsible decision-making has the City in a position of fiscal strength. While it is an enviable position, difficult choices remain that we must address if we are to preserve our strong financial position and continue to protect the interests of our residents and taxpayers.
It is my honor to serve as your Mayor, and I hope you will contact me or the staff at City Hall anytime you have a question or concern. There are many ways for you to get involved, and I strongly encourage everyone to attend our bi-monthly City Council meetings. By showing up and being heard, you can have a tremendous impact on our City. Thank you, and my very best wishes to you and yours for a healthy and prosperous 2012.