Collaboration key to Muncie, IN growth, future, says Mayor Dennis Tyler
More economic development, new quality of life initiatives await community support
By Rick Yencer
MUNCIE, INDIANA (NEWS) - Mayor Dennis Tyler told the story of surviving the Polar Vortex, bringing $140 million in new investment and offering more people based programs during the annual State of the City address on Thursday.
"Improving the quality of life of a community is dependent on the collaboration of everyone," the mayor told a crowd of more than 300 people.
While the city is defined by the quality of life that is available to our community, we are defined by the value we place on our children and the future," he added. And we are defined by the collobrations that allow to move forward, lift us up and unite us."
Community leaders like retiring Ball State President JoAnn Gora agreed that collaboration was the key to a community's success.
The university is undertaking a community college master plan to help improve the look and connect the two in a One Muncie approach. And more money for fire protection has been provided by the university to pay for an aerial truck to protect people and property.
Tyler offered his dream of connecting the two with trails, bike paths and other quality of life initiatives like a new beach and bathhouse at Prairie Creek Lake accessible to those with disability.
And he said those quality of life projects helped promote economic development with more than a dozen new business starts in 2013, amounting to nearly 800 jobs and that $140 million in investment.
This year, two more housing projects come onboard with a veterans housing complex at Walnut and Wysor and assisted living at Tillotson and Memorial. That's estimated at $22 million more in investment.
The defining moment, as the mayor sees it, is the construction of a $25 million hotel DWNTWN operated by Courtyard by Marriott besides about $10 million in sewers, streets and sidewalks.
The DWNTWN with its 2,500 jobs, continues to grow with 50 events a year, over 30,000 visitors and six new businesses last year,
It's trendy DWNTWN The Original Muncie marketing campaign is responsible for plenty of leads and Tyler offered a new Happy video of local origin similar to Pharrell Williams pop song, Happy.
That bust a move dance video included community leaders, city officials and others that help promote the community.
Tyler also had a Southside choir perform besides its ROTC unit handle the introductions, Tyler graduated from Central and has been working with Muncie schools to ensure a great transition between Central and South.
The city also put money into a B-5 education program that offers learning opportunities for preschool students. And more city tax dollars help with lots of summer recreation programs for youth in inner city neighborhoods.
Tyler even talked about an expert in urban gardening that will help residents feed themselves as other federal money will be used to clear slum and blight from those neighborhoods.
Some of the mayor's address talked of the tremendous effort and costs to keep streets cleared and businesses open during the Polar Vortex that first struck in January with repeated snow storms through spring.
The city spent nearly a $1 million in snow removal expense, more than four times than normal and helped more than 2,000 people left homeless by the storms.
"If we learned anything from this past winter, it's the importance of being prepared," said Tyler. "Prepare for the worst and hope for the best."
The city is launching an emergency notification system with the help of AT&T that will send mass emergency messages to citizens in an event of weather of other emergency.
The system will communicate through text messaging, email, social networks and voice mail like other institutions use.
A mobile smart911 system also will be used by public safety dispatch to alert people to disasters more quickly. Ball State has a similar program that notifies students
Tyler also spoke of a healthy cash balance in city government, rising property values and city and public safety workers that provide exceptional service to citizens.
And he touched on another defining moment, the 150th anniversary of Muncie becoming a city when the mayor faces re-election next year.