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 other opportunities in the cities where they live and work. The luncheons, held from February-May in Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, and Virginia Beach, were attended by more than 3,500 business and community leaders.
On May 7, Suffolk Mayor Linda T. Johnson delivered her State of the City address in front of a crowd of nearly 500 attendees at the Hilton Garden Inn Suffolk Riverfront Hotel & Conference Center.
Using the “Blueprint for Success” theme to illustrate her point, Johnson highlighted the city’s successes, strengths, and future plans. “Success is a personal standard—reaching for the highest that is in us, becoming all that we can be,” said the mayor. “In Suffolk, we have done just that. We have not been content to rest on successes of the past, but have continued on, undaunted in our quest to make our city the very best that it can be.”
Mayor Johnson acknowledged that the past year has brought many achievements to the city. She highlighted new construction on the combined Municipal and E-911 Call Centers in February, saying, “This building truly symbolizes just how far the city has come, not only as a representation of our past successes, but also the strong future we have in store for us.” Johnson was also pleased with the recent announcement that The Monument Companies will renovate a strip of downtown buildings into 68 new loft-style apartments. Economic development also continues to succeed. US 460 Mobility Partners, LLC has selected the Bridgewater Technology Center, for their administrative headquarters. “The new US 460 project, and the ease to markets it will offer, has the potential to further strengthen Suffolk’s position on the East Coast as an emerging powerhouse in the logistics industry” she remarked.
One of Suffolk’s biggest accomplishments, according to the mayor, was being selected as one of the “Top 100 Small Cities to Live In” by CNN Money Magazine. “Even now, they continue to take notice of our progress, and ranked Suffolk in their top ten communities in its best-places-to-live, national top-ten list for ‘Where The Jobs Are in 2012.’” Suffolk saw a 43-percent jump in job growth from 2000 to 2011.
The city’s financial standing is a key piece to Suffolk’s future. “Because of the broad range of cost-cutting measures we implemented early on in the recession, we have remained on sound financial foot to this day,” said Mayor Johnson. Some of the city’s financial accomplishments include cutting roughly $20 million from the budget through operational efficiencies, despite being one of the fastest growing local governments in the region. “Due to the strength of our financial house, the bond agencies are telling us they approve of the way this city is operating,” declared the mayor. “We are truly doing more with less.”
Mayor Johnson acknowledged that Suffolk’s quality of life is one of the primary reasons the city is growing and progressing. “There are a total of 65 expanding and new businesses which opened in 2012,” she said, doubling the increase of 2011.
The mayor stressed the importance of education, and that educational institutions measure their success “one child at a time.” “Their goal is to ensure that every graduate has discovered his or her strengths and passions; is prepared for college, the workforce, or military; and has a plan to launch the next chapter of his or her life,” she said.
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. “We have the second lowest crime rate in Hampton Roads thanks to proactive enforcement and patrol efforts by the police department.” Mayor Johnson honored and congratulated all public service officers for their tremendous dedication. She also gave special recognition to office James Winslow, the recipient of two awards at the Chamber of Commerce’s recent inaugural Valor Awards.
Thank you to Series Sponsors: TowneBank (Presenting); Bon Secours Virginia Health System (Platinum); and Farm Fresh, Inc. and Optima Health Plans (Silver).