State of the City 2nd of 4 Parts

Economic development gets Rowland's focus in address

By LARRY C. BOWERS Staff Writer
Posted 1/12/18

After opening his State of the City 2018 presentation to the Cleveland Kiwanis Club Thursday, Mayor Tom Rowland went on to discuss recent growth and progress of "The City With Spirit."Redevelopment …

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State of the City 2nd of 4 Parts

Economic development gets Rowland's focus in address

Posted

After opening his State of the City 2018 presentation to the Cleveland Kiwanis Club Thursday, Mayor Tom Rowland went on to discuss recent growth and progress of “The City With Spirit.”

Redevelopment and transportation were covered at the start, and he then touched on economic development, the Bradley/Cleveland Chamber of Commerce, Public Works and Parks and Recreation.

The Cleveland Daily Banner is publishing Rowland’s address in a four-part series, through Monday. This is his final State of the City address as mayor, since he announced last week that he will not seek re-election later this year.

In his economic development emphasis Thursday, he discussed both the city’s short-term and long-range prospects, and how strong the local economy is now and expectations for the future.

“In recent years, we have reported major steps taken by local industries,” Rowland pointed out. “The past year has been no exception. Late in the year Bayer announced a three-phase, multi-year construction project.”

Bayer’s first phase is a two-story, 32,000-square-foot office building. The second phase is projected to begin in late 2019, the third phase in 2021. The combined phases represent a total potential investment in the community of up to $38 million. The plant expansion will serve its current 376 full-time employees with an annual payroll and benefits package of about $39 million. Plus, Bayer is the workplace for 127 temporary employees.

 Wacker’s HDK Plant in Charleston is scheduled to open in 2019, a further $150 million investment in the community.

“These are examples of the importance of working with our existing industries,” the mayor added.

Rowland emphasized that Cleveland, in his 27 years as mayor, has grown from about 28,000 to 45,000. “We expect to reach 50,000 by the 2020 census,” he said.

“Our commercial and industrial growth has been phenomenal, which is not due to one person, but many partners working for the common good of the community,” the mayor said proudly.

“An outstanding team of city employees and department heads are at the top of the list, and I cannot say enough about the leadership of our Chamber of Commerce,” continued Rowland. “As I have often said of our Chamber of Commerce, it literally is the thread that weaves us all together in all areas of our community — from economic development, to education, to the arts and tourism.”

“Our Chamber is a quality organization dedicated to the business development of its members, our economic growth, and the highest quality of life for our community, and the entire Ocoee Region.”

Cleveland’s mayor added that there are other recent indicators of the prospects of the city’s strong future, including the municipality’s Public Works and Parks and Recreation departments.

“The Public Works Department has been busy improving and expanding our sidewalks network, along with its many other tasks,” said Rowland. “The Casteel Connector will soon link to the Cleveland Greenway, and Tinsley Park to neighborhoods around North Ocoee Street.”

He said the city has added a pedestrian-controlled crossing signal at Keith and 17th streets, making the Greenway more accessible to pedestrians and bicyclists from west of Keith Street in the Stuart School neighborhood.

Public Works has teamed up with the Parks and Recreation for a big project to improve the Deer Park area in the city’s Historic District. “Deer Park is not only our oldest park, but one of our most heavily used parks,” he pointed out. “The park will be renovated over the coming months with new playground features, and the tennis court will be replaced by a feature many adults asked for during a public listening session — four pickle ball courts.

Tinsley Park is also scheduled for renovation. Parks and Recreation is using a $500,000 state grant, plus matching funds from the city, for a major tennis complex project and pavilion. Bids for the work, featuring seven tennis courts, were opened in October.

Public Works crews are enhancing the Greenway at Willow Street.

Some parking spaces were added at the Greenway Park at Raider Drive, a location that is growing in popularity for outdoor events. Sound and lighting enhancements were added to the stage there, thanks to a state grant.

The city is also working with the Cleveland Civitan Club to upgrade the Handi-Park next to Stuart School. This park was one of the first of its kind in the state, an indication of how the city has always looked ahead.

“These park and recreation improvements are among the many benefits of living in a great city,” indicated Mayor Rowland.

There are also huge undertakings in the Blythe/Oldfield neighborhoods.

“Just a few blocks from downtown is another one of Cleveland’s great success stories” said the mayor. “The transformation of the Blythe/Oldfield neighborhood was a milestone in 2017, and there is more to come.”

“In November we marked the completion of a major project, the Blythe/Oldfield Park. Children in that area now have a great place to play, and families have a place to enjoy the outdoors,” emphasized Rowland.

The Blythe/Oldfield Community Association, United Way’s Impact Cleveland, the City of Cleveland, Cleveland Utilities, the Johnson Family Foundation and others took part in the park’s development.

As the park opened, the Blythe/Oldfield Neighborhood Association, and friends, celebrated the successful completion of a two-year Extreme Energy Makeover that involved over 400 homes. With a $3.5 million TVA grant, and cooperative efforts by Cleveland Utilities, the Community Development Block Grant Program and Impact Cleveland, many families are saving energy and money.

“Impact Cleveland aims to boost home ownership in the Blythe Oldfield community over the next five years with a $500,000 grant from NeighborWorks America,” added Rowland in praise of the organization and its director, Dustin Tommey. “The plan calls for building or renovating as many as 47 affordable homes.”

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(Editor’s note: In Sunday’s continuation of the State of the City address, Rowland will discuss topics of special interest to Cleveland families — education and emergency services — as well as city events of the past year.)

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