The Chamber’s five part State of the City Series concluded this week. The series was a tremendous success and provided attendees with highlights of key business development initiatives, municipal progress updates, and opportunities in the cities where they live and work. The events, held in Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, and Virginia Beach, were attended by a total of more than 3,000 business and community leaders.
On April 26, Suffolk Mayor Linda T. Johnson delivered her State of the City address in front of a crowd of nearly 400 at the Hilton Garden Inn & Suffolk Conference Center.
“The last few years have been challenging, to say the least,” said the mayor. “We can’t ignore the fact that we’re facing continued challenges, but my trust is in the future.”
Mayor Johnson acknowledged that the past year has brought many successes to the city of Suffolk. She congratulated City Manager, Selena Cuffee-Glenn, on receiving the 2010 Distinguished Public Service Award by the National Conference of Minority Public Administrators.
One of the biggest accomplishments in 2010, according to the mayor, was Suffolk being selected as one of the “Top 100 Small Cities to Live In” by CNN Money Magazine. Suffolk was chosen out of 746 U.S. cities across the nation. Factors such as good jobs, low crime, charm, recreational activities and many more attributes that make a city a great place to raise a family were used to determine the winners. “Suffolk scored particularly high in the job growth category, due in large part to our diversified employment base,” said the mayor. “Actually, we ranked almost 10 percentage points better than the average of the ‘Best Cities,’ as evidenced by the wide variety of businesses and industries that have chosen to call Suffolk ‘home’ since 2000.”
The city’s financial standing is a key piece to Suffok’s future. “Suffolk’s financial position continues to improve because of strong management practices,” said Mayor Johnson. Some of the city’s financial accomplishments include the refunding of bonds, which resulted in $1.6 million in savings for the city. Last year, Suffolk received their 26th Government Finance Officers Association Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting. “Our budget is sound because of our continuous efforts to minimize our costs and be more effective in delivering our services,” declared the mayor.
The housing industry contributes to the financial success of the city. “Quality land at a good price-that’s what draws families to Suffolk,” said Mayor Johnson. “We have a host of housing choices available to suit every budget or taste.” The mayor announced that the Riverfront neighborhood in Harbor View will be home once again to the Tidewater Builders Association’s Homearama event this fall. “Showcasing this event in Suffolk for the third time in 10 years speaks volumes about the wonderful things that are happening in our city,” said the mayor. Mayor Johnson also announced that the Jefferson Lofts received the 2010 Award of Excellence for the best historic rehabilitation project at the 14th annual Hampton Roads Association for Commercial Real Estate’s Excellence in Development Design Awards. Finally, the mayor announced that the Fairgrounds Project was underway as the new Health and Human Services building has begun development.
Mayor Johnson acknowledged that Suffolk’s quality of life is one of the primary reasons the city is growing and progressing. “Suffolk’s population has skyrocketed, with a 32.8% increase in residents since 2000,” she said. “We are leading the growth in the greater Hampton Roads area, and we are second only to Northern Virginia!”
Capital investment in 2010 totaled over $71 million with existing industry bringing in over $24 million. New businesses in Suffolk account for almost $47 million. The mayor announced that these new businesses are adding 909 new jobs for the population of Suffolk. “That is 399 more jobs than last year,” declared the mayor.
While the mayor recognized the many successes of the city, she also addressed issues that need assistance. “We fully recognize that these are challenging times,” she said. “We are taking all appropriate steps to provide assistance to those affected by the disestablishment of U.S. Joint Forces Command. “ She announced that a hotline and website dedicated to providing assistance have been established as well as a career center. She also said that 700 JFCOM civilian defense jobs have been preserved.
The mayor stressed the importance of education. Suffolk Public Schools continue to maintain 100% full state accreditation at all 21 of its schools, as well as a division-wide accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. “I can proudly say that in Suffolk, the educational opportunities available for our children also reflect our belief that maintain our leadership in research and technology is crucial not only to our city’s success, but to America’s success,” declared the mayor.
The mayor boasted about the quality of life that Suffolk offers its residents and visitors. “There has never been a better time to live, work and play in Suffolk,” she said. “Our city has never been more vibrant or safer.” Last year, Suffolk experienced a 9% reduction in part one crime. The Fire and Rescue department received a 99% customer satisfaction rating from the citizens of Suffolk. Mayor Johnson congratulated all public service officers for their tremendous dedication.
In addition to these accomplishments, the mayor also announced that the Suffolk Police Department will soon have a much needed mobile command center to improve its responses to natural disasters, hostage situations and other incidents. Another quality of life improvement will be the animal shelter expansion expected to be completed this fall.
Mayor Johnson concluded her speech by asking the citizens and businesses of Suffolk to take part in shaping the future. “We control our destiny, and must write the next chapter of our history,” she said. “When we come together as a community, our potential is boundless.”
Thank you to Series Sponsors: TowneBank (Presenting); Bon Secours Virginia Health System (Gold); and Farm Fresh, Inc. (Silver).