February 28, 2017
Let me first start by thanking you all for coming today. It’s always good to see so many familiar faces. I appreciate the opportunity to be here again this year to share with you the state of our city. I want to especially thank Bill Reedy and Indiana American Water for hosting today’s luncheon.
I’m grateful to be able to share with you today that the state of our city is strong. The state of our city is peaceful. And the state of our city is flourishing.
I can only begin to tell you how proud I am of the team I work with everyday. My administration, department heads, city council members … Some of them are here today – I want to thank them for their work to make Jeffersonville the best city in the state of Indiana. Everything we have accomplished and everything on the horizon is credit to their hard work and our shared mission to always put Jeffersonville first.
A few days before the start of 2017, a reporter asked me to recall the most significant thing that happened in Jeffersonville over the previous year.
I’m sure that most of you sitting out there have already answered that question in your heads. I bet 99 percent of you said “the bridge.” Right?
That one is kind of obvious … In November, after more than 50 years of waiting, we finally welcomed the official opening of the Lewis and Clark Bridge in Jeffersonville’s east end. There wasn’t a single local story that got more headlines in the newspapers or on the TV news over the last couple of years than the east end bridge.
Now, I’m not taking anything away from the bridges. A lot of people worked for a very long time to make those bridges possible. The impact of all of those peoples’ work, and the bridges themselves, on Jeffersonville’s future is really without measure. But, like I told the reporter, the less-obvious most significant thing to happen in Jeffersonville during 2016 wasn’t a single story that got a really big headline. The most significant thing to happen in our city during 2016 came in the form of a whole lot of smaller stories and headlines that were all the result of one really big thing: Togetherness.
2016 marked the beginning of a new era in Jeffersonville. For the first time since becoming mayor of this awesome city, I saw what can happen when everyone is working together toward the common goal of simply making life better for the people of Jeffersonville. I, along with all of those folks I mentioned earlier – my staff, the city council – are driven by that same, simple common goal. It’s refreshing to work with people whose true motivations are working together to do right and be better. And the results are obvious.
Everything we’ve accomplished in the city since I have been your mayor has been accomplished by focusing on five specific things:
- Improving our quality of life
- Protecting neighborhoods
- Growing the local economy
- Keeping the city fiscally strong
- Planning for the future
I’m happy to report that our five-step plan for success is working. Jeffersonville IS booming. Businesses are moving in and so are new residents. In the last six years, more than 6,000 jobs have been created here and more than 600 new homes have been built. The growth in downtown Jeffersonville continues and is carrying over to Veterans Parkway; and now, to the east end of the city where areas around I-265 are being targeted for major commercial development.
The city is doing its part to keep up with the growth coming to Jeffersonville. We completed an inventory of the city’s roads and streets to figure out where people are going and how we can get them there easier. As a result, we have more than $36 million in planned infrastructure improvements taking place throughout the city over the next few years.
Very soon Holman Lane will be reconstructed. The project will add 9,000 feet of roadway, a turning lane, bike lanes and sidewalks to help handle the 19,000 motorists that travel this road every day. Veterans Parkway between Holman and Woehrle Road will also be widened as part of the project … something that has been talked about for years.
One of the things I’m so proud of is the addition of sidewalks on Allison Lane. I can’t tell you how many people in that area told me over the last couple of years ‘please give us sidewalks …’ So we started working last summer to add about 1.5 miles of sidewalk along Allison Lane. That was a $2 million project our Redevelopment Commission agreed to take on that has made life so much better for the residents who live along Allison Lane and in the Oak Park area. Whether they’re trying to walk to the store or just take a walk up to Allison Brook Park, these sidewalks make it possible for them to do those things and enjoy their neighborhood.
With that said, we want to connect Jeffersonville. This project was one of many as we move in that direction.
I know it’s been a long time coming, but we are making significant progress on the 10th Street widening project. I expect that by December of 2018, that project should be finished – making it a very Merry Christmas for the more than 32,000 drivers who travel the thoroughfare each day.
We’re slated to break ground this Spring on improvements on North 10th Street as well. The city is investing millions of dollars in infrastructure as we get ready for the development of nearly 180 acres on both sides of 10th Street just before the I-265 interchange.
On one side of the road will be a new mega Kroger. And on the other, there will be a new Baptist East facility. Both developments will quickly attract restaurants and retail. And it’s just the start of more growth and development for Highway 62.
With the opening of the new East End Bridge, we’re seeing more development planned. And the city is playing a vital role in helping make that happen as we construct a new road – Gallbreath Way – to connect Utica Sellersburg Road to Highway 62. The new road will help spur development in the area where there is already interest in adding restaurants, hotels and a movie theatre. It will also help alleviate traffic congestion on Utica Sellersburg Road.
With so much of our growth being in the eastern part of the city it has also become imperative to improve access to our residents there. We have hundreds Jeffersonville families living on Salem-Noble Road within a two-mile range of Hwy 62. If you’re familiar with the area, you know there is a bridge there crossing a creek on the way to our neighborhoods. Anytime there’s a heavy rain, the bridge floods. That limits our access to all of those residents – police, fire, ambulances … they can’t cross a washed out bridge. So when the county came to me asking if the city would help pay for repairs to the bridge, it seemed like the smart thing to do. The county is working on making the improvements to the bridge and it’s expected to be finished soon, creating much easier and safer access to those neighborhoods.
I mentioned earlier, more than 600 new homes have been built in the city over the past six years. Most of those homes have been sold. There aren’t any signs that growth is slowing. There are plans for the development of a few new neighborhoods – or extensions of older ones – in the city, as well as some multi-family projects that our long-term housing study shows we desperately need.
Of course, new residents and neighborhoods create a need for increased public safety. And I am happy to say the city is working diligently to keep all of its residents safe. In the last year, we’ve hired three new police officers and three new firefighters. And, citing Jeffersonville’s significant growth and economic boom, the U.S. Department of Justice has awarded the Jeffersonville Police Department a grant helping us to hire at least six new police officers in 2017 in our on-going effort to increase community policing and crime prevention.
My administration understands that one of the most important parts of providing a high quality of life for our residents is to create an environment that is attractive to businesses who want to bring jobs to the city. I’m proud to say we’ve created more than 6,000 jobs since I’ve been mayor and that there are more jobs on the way.
When Amazon located at River Ridge a few years ago, it was just the spark we needed to showcase all Jeffersonville has to offer. Since then, other companies have found a comfortable place to set up shop in Jeffersonville. They are coming here and they like what they see.
In the last year, we’ve welcomed companies like Enjoy Life Foods, Genpak and American Air Filter to River Ridge. New buildings are being built at River Ridge all the time and existing businesses like Shoe Sensation, which employs more than 700 people nationwide, are expanding their operations there and investing their futures in Jeffersonville.
Other areas are growing as well. International steel giant POSCO – a south Korean company – is building a facility at the Jeffersonville Port, which recorded another record shipping year in 2016. And the likes of Knapheide, Silver Creek Leather and Orion Arms have found homes in Jeffersonville’s Industrial Park, which is drawing a lot of interest from businesses, too.
A few businesses are also finding that opportunities are still available along Veterans Parkway, like Indiana Tech, which recently settled into newly-built quarters along the commercial corridor.
Downtown Jeffersonville’s renaissance also continues. Sparked initially by the opening of the Big Four Pedestrian Bridge – which continues to be a showcase spot in the City – interest in downtown has not wavered.
We broke ground on a boutique Marriott hotel near Big Four Station last summer, with the developers eyeing an opening this year for the $15 million investment. And new restaurants continue to pop up in the area as well. O’Sheas, HobKnob Coffee, Portage House and Pearl Street Tap House have become new neighbors over the past year. The highly anticipated opening of The Parlour along Pearl Street across from Big Four Station, is set for next month. And I know there are other investors working on giving new life to a couple of other properties near the Big Four.
It’s going to be another exciting spring and summer in downtown Jeffersonville. Hundreds of thousands of people have already walked across the Big Four Bridge and have been pleasantly surprised by what’s waiting on this side. But there’s so much more to come.
For instance, this summer – Memorial Day Weekend – Jeffersonville will host Abbey Road on the River, the world’s largest Beatles-inspired music festival. This is going to be a huge event for Jeffersonville and we are so honored to have the opportunity to host this event in southern Indiana after spending more than 10 years across the river in Louisville.
We want people to discover Jeff. We want to them to visit and find out first hand why it’s such a great city.
That’s why I’m excited to announce that we’re establishing a new Arts and Cultural District. With the help of $1 million in funding from our friends at Clark-Floyd Counties Convention and Tourism, we’re going to transform a 10-block area on the north side of Court Avenue into a new destination point with a unique look and feel.
The new district will be another important tool as we continue to focus on attracting more people downtown. It will become the home to artists, makers, historians and inventors. It’s safe to say there won’t be anything like it in the region.
While we’re talking about downtown … I can tell you we continue to focus everyday on ways to bring more development and investment to the area. Simply stated…we want more people to call downtown Jeff home. That’s why we updated city building and zoning regulations to allow for increased urban development that we hope will spur residential growth in the area.
Those changes are helping attract a planned residential development on Court Avenue … just across the street from Big Four … at the site of the old American Legion.
Meanwhile, we’re on track to see a new look at 10th and Spring. It’s a $25 million dollar private investment that will bring a hotel, restaurants and retail to our city’s gateway.
It’s obvious our city is making progress. Everywhere you look there’s growth and development.
And it’s important that we’re ready for what that change may bring. That’s why I recently established a Commission on Sensible Growth and Development. It’s a seven citizen group that will help advise my office in an effort to ensure residents and property owners aren’t overlooked by our zoning regulations in the wake of the new development coming our way.
It’s evident that our city is growing. It’s even more evident it is prospering. We’ve done so much in the last year. And we’ve done it without raising taxes while ending last year with a budget surplus. I’m proud to say that our city’s finances have never been stronger.
Once before, I described the bridges rising out of the Ohio River on our east and west ends as the bookends to our city. And that’s what they are; bookends, holding us together. But what lies between the strength of those bridges is the big story; our stories … the story of Jeffersonville. And that story is still being written by every one of us, every day.
It’s a collection of stories that paints the picture of a strong and vibrant Jeffersonville. And in the last year we’ve learned that we can do so much more when we are on the same page forging partnerships. Our success as a city rests on each other’s shoulders.
And as we look ahead, our future has never looked brighter. And 2016 taught us that our future is the brightest when we are one Jeffersonville coming together to make life better for everyone.