MAYOR HENRY FOCUSES ON HOW TOGETHER WE ARE STRONGER IN STATE OF THE CITY SPEECH
City working closely with partners to create, retain jobs and strengthen neighborhoods
Earlier this month I gave my third annual State of the City address at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne’s Rhinehart Music Center. With the new time of 5:30 p.m., I was honored to have Area Partnership chairs and co-chairs along with a number of neighborhood association presidents join us.
As I said in the address, the state of our city is strong. I am convinced that Fort Wayne will both survive and thrive. Why? Because we have the energy, the ideas, the spirit and the courage to take the tough and transform it into a brighter tomorrow for all of us.
Fort Wayne has a legacy of innovation that can come to life again. We are a proud, hard working people who never give up, who rise to every challenge and demonstrate the best in humanity. That is why I am working every moment of every day to keep Fort Wayne working. That is why I believe that by working together, we can keep Fort Wayne growing.
We not only retained the local General Motors assembly plant, but it also added 700 positions for a total of about 3,000 jobs. Manchester College decided to locate its first satellite campus for the only pharmacy program in northern Indiana in Fort Wayne. Our other local colleges and universities are also driving economic and workforce development that make our area attractive to employers and employees alike.
With a partnership of the Community Foundation, the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership and its foundation, WorkOne, IPFW, Ivy Tech Northeast and local school corporations including Fort Wayne Community and East Allen, we are improving the likelihood of job success through the Talent Initiative, which is funded through a $20 million grant from the Lilly Endowment. It will prepare our workforce for high-skill jobs focusing on science, technology, engineering and math.
As other cities cut vital services, lay off police officers and firefighters, and close facilities, Fort Wayne is working hard to maintain the City services our residents expect. Our City has been able to avoid any cuts in core services. Through strong fiscal management, hard work, and innovative, cost-saving measures, our City ended 2009 $2.3 million under budget.
That does not mean I am not concerned about property tax caps and how they will affect our future budgets, but Fort Wayne is well positioned financially. Other Indiana cities are discussing new revenue streams, but this is not needed in Fort Wayne. Let me reassure you, I will not put any additional burdens on our non-profit organizations, who are creating jobs and delivering important services.
Our Office of Housing and Neighborhood Services touched more than 200 families in 2009 through programs that reduced the threat of lead-based paint, provided needed repairs and stabilized and revitalized neighborhoods. To further improve our community, I have directed Public Works to set aside $2.5 million this year to repair residential concrete streets. I am committed to continuing these efforts each year.
Under the leadership of Bob Kennedy, 2009 Public Works Leader of the Year, we are reducing the threat of flooding to Fort Wayne families. This year, with a $1.5 million FEMA and Indiana Department of Homeland Security grant, we will purchase about 52 homes through voluntary buyouts in the Junk Ditch area. We will buy the homes at market value, restore the land to greenspace and forever end the concern about high water for these families.
In 2009 we protected about 150 homes from flooding on the St. Marys River with the flood-control projects in the Woodhurst, Southwood Park and Park-Thompson neighborhoods. With these buyouts and projects on our three rivers, we are closer than ever to the day when residential flooding is a thing of the past in Fort Wayne.
As I think about the future of Fort Wayne and how together we are stronger, I keep coming back to one of my favorite quotes from Henry Ford:
“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”
I look forward to many successes this year.
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