Mesa Mayor Scott Smith took the opportunity at the recent state of the city breakfast to laud some of the city’s triumphs over the past four years, and to lay out a direction for the future.
The endgame for Mesa, he said, is to become “The New American City,” a strong community, suitable for generations of families, sustaining itself by creating jobs in a world with a dwindling supply of them due to increased competition and technology.
“When people have jobs, good jobs, cities thrive,” Smith said during the event — sponsored by the Mesa Chamber of Commerce and attended by nearly 500 at the Hilton Phoenix East/Mesa. “When they don’t, cities struggle,” or he said, like “the former great city … Detroit, they die.”
With the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Cold War ended and so did the competitive stalemate that kept jobs in America, Smith said.
“Even the communists are capitalists,” Smith said, implicitly speaking about China and the former Soviet states. “And they’re better capitalists than we are in many ways.”
Exponential Accelerating technology continues to replace positions once held by people to achieve efficiency, Smith said.
The city council’s challenge in 2013 and beyond will be to continue job growth, Smith said.
The mayor said that innovation is the key to keeping Mesa a thriving community where generations of families stay in the city along with their vocational and creative talents.
Smith called on the leaders of Mesa’s neighboring communities to join the city in a “rebranding” of the entire East Valley, which he said comprises of economic and innovative assets that rival any area in the world, along with a vibrant population of around 1 million residents.
On Mesa’s front, the mayor announced that he will propose an initiative to the city council to create at least four “innovation” districts — made up of the Downtown, Fiesta, Falcon Field, and Gateway regions. Smith asserted that the airports are especially important because of their industrial attractions and he added that Gateway also holds the Arizona State Polytechnic campus, another potential engine for research and change.
The downtown area, he said, will be an important area with the arrival of light rail, four new universities and available space that can be occupied by health and technology firms. The Fiesta district has potential for vast changes as its retail presence continues to fade with online shopping and a still-festering economic outlook.
The mayor said that Mesa’s growth through innovation — its achievement of “New American City” status — would only come through bold action based on ideas that defy some of the administrative and economic “realities,” meaning new ideas should be vetted for their enhancement of Mesa’s quality of life before they are shut down over practical reasons.
“If you accept good, you’ll never be great,” the mayor said. “For far too long, in our community and in our state, we’ve accepted good … we have to try the impossible. We have to have fun.”
He said Arizona must no longer depend on good weather and incoming residents to sustain its economic success.
Smith’s speech lasted more than an hour and included testimonials from residents and community leaders about Mesa’s success and potential.
Smith also complimented the city council on its work over the past few years, including its members serving on a number national and local committees and partnerships. Smith, who’ll soon take the role of president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, said Mesa, the 38th largest U.S. city, should promote itself to the rest of the country as a leader and example of how other municipalities can face the global economic environment and create viable economic opportunities for their residents.
“You may ask us ‘Isn’t that something that Washington will do?’ No … I’ve spent enough time now in Washington to tell you Washington will not solve our problems. If you’re thinking they will, you’re in for a long wait.”
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