Monday, January 5, 2009

City Talk - Looking back on 2008 as winning year for Rolla

As we turn the corner on 2008, and begin to consider the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead, I would like to wish all of you a safe, memorable and prosperous New Year.

Unemployment figures and the overall state of the national economy aside, Rolla has finished 2008 in much better condition than many communities throughout Missouri and the nation. More importantly, though, we as a community continue to grow and prosper in some very visible areas throughout the city. The most dramatic changes are seen along Martin Springs Drive in the Blues Lake area where the new three-story 105,000-square-foot St. John’s Clinic is being constructed, along with other new businesses and the construction of St. John’s Parkway that is further solidifying Rolla’s stature as a major medical and health care provider for South Central Missouri. The dramatic development and growth of this area, which is benefiting from the construction of the new Southwest Treatment Plant located a few miles west on Martin Springs Drive Outer Road, should serve as a catalyst to attract other businesses such as retailers, restaurants and the like.

The dramatic transformation of the intersection at Ridgeview Road and State Road 63 and Highway 72 is another example of the growth and prosperity we have seen in 2008. The renovation and enhancement of several buildings on the east side of State Road 63 North, including the greatly expanded Kia dealership with I-44 frontage, has provided yet another magnet to attract motorists along I-44. Add to these very visible developments the positive headway that is being made on the Rolla West Master Plan, the new Innovation Tech. Park on the Missouri University of Science and Technology campus, continued improvements to the City’s 100-miles of streets and roads, and a total upgrade of the City’s stormwater and wastewater systems, and 2008 in retrospect was a winning year for Rolla.

When I begin thinking about 2008 as a winning year, it would be difficult not to reflect on the City’s successful d├ębut as a host city for the international cycling event, the Tour of Missouri, on September 11, 2008. For a city of our size to successfully host the Stage 4 Start of one of the premiere professional cycling events in the country, was truly a winning event on numerous fronts. The Rolla community benefited not only from a marketing and promotion perspective by achieving state, national and international recognition, but also from an economic perspective as thousands of tourism-related dollars were generated in hotel/motel bookings, restaurant sales, and untold grocery, fuel and retail sales. The Tour of Missouri helped to put Rolla and St. James, which hosted the Stage 5 finish on Sept. 12, on the global map. We are hopeful that with the recent bid application submitted to Medalist Sports by the Tour of Missouri Local Organizing Committee chaired by Scott Caron, the City’s Recreation Director, that Rolla will be selected again as a host city for either a stage finish or stage start.

And while it is too soon to predict just how much of an impact the global financial markets, the downturn in the housing market, and other leading economic indicators have had on Rolla, the City’s revenues from sales tax are up 2.27% after the first quarter of FY 09 (last 3 months of 2008). The City experienced a 1.8 % drop in sales tax overall in fiscal year 2008. The City’s Fiscal Advisory Committee, which met over a 6-month period in 2008, addressed several fiscal policy recommendations that were adopted by the City Council to help meet the financial challenges facing the City in the months and year’s to come.

Many positive opportunities and developments are on the horizon for our City of 18,000-plus, and the regional center of South Central Missouri, so let’s keep the momentum going into 2009.

In closing, I’d like to remind everyone that City Hall will also be closed Monday, Jan. 19 in observance of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday. The regular Rolla City Council Meeting scheduled for the third Monday of the month will be held Tuesday, Jan. 20 at 6:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers at Rolla City Hall (901 North Elm Street). Monday’s trash will be picked up Tuesday and Tuesday’s trash will be picked up Wednesday.

Wishing you again a safe and prosperous New Year!

Mayor Bill Jenks, III

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