Surprise Mayor Lyn Truitt's State of the City address, Feb. 8, 2011:
"Today marks the first time the Surprise State of the City address is being delivered in partnership with the Chamber of Commerce, right here at the Rosskamp - Sun Health, Colonnade. That says a lot about how much our community has progressed. We've laid solid foundations to support a bright future full of opportunity for us all. I believe, today will mark the beginning of a tradition, an annual event where you come to be energized by the promise and excitement Surprise offers you, your business and your family.
'The Surprise Regional Chamber of Commerce' has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? The Chamber's name is representative of the regional approach we take in facing our challenges and opportunities. We have grown as a community by recognizing that our success depends upon cooperating and partnering with others. When we look around, we immediately see why Surprise has a strong regional presence: the beauty of the White Tank Mountains; the fun we enjoy with our families at Lake Pleasant; the World Wildlife Zoo and Aquarium and their great restaurant, Tiburon, a Chamber of Commerce member; Speed World attracts thousands of visitors to our area, and gives us national media exposure on the Speed Channel. And by the way, they are also a Chamber member.
Within our borders we have Surprise Stadium, the greatest place in the region to see a Spring Training game. We boast the Kansas City Royals and the American League Champion, Texas Rangers. Pitchers and catchers report in just a few weeks bringing with them the promise of another exciting season of baseball!
Our award winning Surprise Tennis and Racquet Center is admired across the country. Surprise Tennis has enjoyed spectacular success regionally and nationally. We've hosted such tennis stars as John McEnroe, Andre Agassi and Anna Kournikova. Every year, this tournament, underwritten by Cancer Treatment Centers of America, creates excitement and international exposure for Surprise.
Year 2010 we celebrated our 50th anniversary as a municipality, with many special events around the community. We saw the inception of the Surprise Historical Society and the publication of a book and a video honoring our past. At City Hall, in the Mayor's Atrium, we are constructing a permanent history exhibit to share and honor our heritage.
As we reflected on our 50 year history, we found a myriad of enterprising people who believed in hard work and opportunity. These were people willing to bet their future that Surprise would be a winner.
In an exciting new city such as ours, it's easy to assume that progress is inevitable. But that's not true. Progress is not inevitable. Competition for jobs is fierce, the struggle for resources that create opportunity, such as good transportation and great recreation, never ends. We have endured tough conditions in the past three years, the most difficult economy of our lifetimes.
In Surprise, we have risen to these challenges in a united way, and I can tell you that today, our city has added more new jobs than it did three years ago, we have better transportation, more educational opportunities and we enjoy more recreational choices than we ever have. I can also promise you that by working together and helping each other, a brighter Surprise lies ahead for our families and businesses.
Our city council is providing strong leadership for Surprise. Due to our efforts in working together, listening to you and responding to your needs, we have been able to achieve success and create a vision for our future. In fact, this very evening when the council meets, we will consider a Strategic Plan that is the result of a partnership with the people of Surprise. It charts a clear course for the future of our community, and sets exciting and yes, challenging goals.
Many of our council members are in attendance today as is our City Manager Mark Coronado. Thank you all for the great work you do and for being here today.
Community life like our lives and the lives of our families and businesses is about change and growth. One great change I am sure you have noticed is a growing sense of community engagement! You have had more opportunities to share your thoughts and opinions than ever before. Your input has been sought on important decisions, including our last budget, our Strategic Plan, the 4-10 city hall schedule and our first ever National Citizens Survey. We sought out your opinion and BOYEE! Have you responded!
Surprise has awakened to a new day of community enthusiasm, engagement and a spirit of working together. Our Neighborhood Pride Days are spearheaded by volunteers from all over the city, including folks from our faith-based communities. Many of our residents volunteer their weekend hours cleaning up neighborhoods, hacking at weeds and picking up debris, keeping our community clean and keeping our community spirit high
Through the Compassionate Surprise concept, faith based leaders are partnering with us to improve social services. They have already benefitted hundreds of young people and soon will be helping those in emergency situations such as families affected by domestic violence or temporarily without shelter.
The spirit of partnership and broad thinking is becoming the Surprise brand, and you can see it when the conversation turns to transportation. Although our transportation efforts are far from over, 2011 will see the widening of Grand Avenue completed, and that means a new, rubberized roadway with three lanes in each direction. Bell Road's reconstruction is now complete, and in 2011, for the first time, we will see a six lane freeway within our city limits. The long awaited 303 comes out of the ground this spring! This is the kind of vision and determination our founders would be proud of, and that our grandchildren will appreciate.
Modern freeways bring with them, tens of millions of dollars in economic development. As the 303 emerges and the economy improves, the impact will strike our community like lightning. This year, you will start to see it happen. When people look back on this era, they will say, these were the days the new foundation was laid, and to prove that case, look no further than the 303 freeway.
Looking ahead is something we do in Surprise and that is why we are also focusing on what the rail line can mean to our future, it will be vital for job creation, it will be a crucial cargo and commuter rail corridor to Phoenix and across the nation.
Currently, we own land along the corridor near Grand Avenue and Bell Road, which is our new Park and Ride lot. 'But look into the future' and you can easily imagine a rail station there!
Partnership, vision, and regional thinking are helping folks of all ages meet their educational needs in Surprise. We all know one of the surest ways to build a quality community is through education. Just two years ago, higher education in Surprise was nonexistent.
When you look at our city today, you can see that the dream of higher education is now, available, accessible and affordable. Working together, the City and Rio Salado College have brought the Communiversity at Surprise to our City Center. Truly, a unique partnership!
The Communiversity, led by Doctor Todd Aakhus, again, a Chamber member, is a fantastic opportunity, with three community colleges, two universities and a high school district that focuses on career and technical education. Now, you can earn an Associate's Degree, Bachelor's Degree and even a Master's Degree either online, or in person, right here in Surprise.
As we look to the future, this council and I are committed to attracting a four year university in a traditional college-campus setting. That goal is plainly stated in the strategic plan we will vote on tonight. Won't it be exciting to see the growth of arts, culture and the crackle of intellectual energy a four year campus will bring to Surprise?
Dr. Gail Pletnick, an active member of the Chamber, is here today. She is the Superintendent of the Dysart Unified School District, a key person in making Surprise a place of opportunity and connection for all. Her Board and staff have made the Dysart District a showcase for educational improvement and excellence. When you look back just a few years, the district had NO excelling or highly performing schools. Today, the District boasts four excelling and seven highly performing schools! WOW!
This past Friday, Councilman Williams and I visited the engineering department at Shadow Ridge High School. We observed students studying robotics, 3 dimensional designs and saw the first in the state ethanol lab to study bio fuels. Today Dysart students are learning in a classroom without boundaries for careers that do not yet exist!
You can't help but get excited, by the commitment to excellence that Doctor Pletnick and her team bring to the table, as they continue to challenge and motivate our young people.
The story of excellent education in Surprise also includes our charter schools, which enroll over 20% of our Surprise students. One of those schools, Arizona Charter Academy, yet, another chamber member, has been recognized as one of Arizona's 2010 Most Admired Companies, as one of the Valleys Best Places to Work by the Phoenix Business Journal, AND was named by AZ Magazine as one of the Top 25 Workplaces for Women in the state. We are blessed to have many great educators and employers in Surprise!
Diane McCarthy and WestMEC are creating Arizona's first Fabrication Laboratory in a city-owned building adjacent to City Hall. The Fab Lab is a workshop where users can create models and prototypes that may lead to marketable products, being invented and developed right here in our community.
One important way we have grown is by recognizing that our success does not stop at our city boundaries. Take the good news we have this year about job creation. In August, I was proud to be part of the team announcing the arrival of a Spanish company, Rio Glass Solar, to Surprise. RioGlass will build its US headquarters here and invest millions of dollars in solar related manufacturing. This means hundreds of construction jobs and ultimately 200 high quality, permanent jobs. As proud as I am of Surprise of this achievement, I don't pretend for a minute that we did it alone. That August day we were joined by Governor Jan Brewer, Michael Bidwell and Barry Broome of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. Without these partners, RioGlass would not be here today.
Many of you in this room recognize that these achievements are capturing the attention of corporations everywhere. Just a few years ago, our Southwest Railplex was a largely vacant area along the BNSF rail spur. It was a promising location, a place where everyone could see potential. But as every business owner knows, from potential to reality is a large leap. Making that leap was Rich Marchant of Crescent Crown Distributing, who opened a 275,000 square foot distribution facility there in 2009, the very darkest days of the Recession. Today, Crescent Crown, a Chamber member, employs approximately 200 people right here in our community, 200 good solid jobs. Brentwood Industries will also join us this year. Based in Pennsylvania, Brentwood will build 125,000 square feet of manufacturing and packaging facilities.
At the last city council meeting we welcomed Sante Rehabilitation Clinic to Surprise. Their new facility under construction near Del Web hospital will bring an additional 80 well-paying jobs to our community. That same night we OKed the construction of a new Banner Medical Plaza, in Surprise Center near City Hall.
These achievements, in this economy, speak to the drive, the enthusiasm and the spirit of our residents, and of you, our business community. I couldn't be more proud of what you have done!
Of course, new industries provide more and better jobs, but there are other benefits. New employers add a corporate presence to our community life, and provide revenues that help pay for essential City services.
You may have heard that Surprise is now part of a west valley Foreign Trade Zone. Let me tell you why that's important. A foreign trade zone encourages international trade in Surprise. That is another step to attracting good, solid jobs to our city, and carving out our place in the global market.
As farsighted as a foreign trade zone is, we have another development that has just as much potential. In 2009, the city council decided to create a business incubator at the former City Hall complex.
Aptly named, the AZ TechCelerator, is an innovation hot spot where new business ideas are nurtured to life, with a modest boost from the City.
One TechCelerator example is Athena Wireless Communications led by CEO Eduardo Tinoco. So far, Athena has filed seven patents and secured $2 million dollars in funding. Eduardo has already hired ten people as his business starts to take root at our TechCelerator. Eduardo is a Chamber member and is here today. Eduardo, thank you for bringing your entrepreneurial spirit to Surprise!
The TechCelerator is already home to 14 businesses and has churned out more than 50 new jobs. It has generated media buzz all over the region, and received, a WESTMARC, "Best of the West" award, for innovation. Today, I am inviting you to visit them at their open house on Saturday, from ten to noon. See the excitement for yourself! Any of the TechCelerator companies could be a future major employer, grown and rooted right here in Surprise.
Yes, indeed! Economic energy is building momentum in Surprise! Just this past weekend an executive representing Ford Motor Company called me to share their intention and commitment to bringing Ford to the auto mall at Prasada! While the deal is yet to be inked, they are giving assurances of groundbreaking in 2011 and a ribbon cutting of the new Ford dealership in 2012. Surprise is on a roll! Yes, that pun was very much intended!
On a day like today, we all realize how fortunate we are to live in this gorgeous environment. It was only a few years ago that Surprise began to see our responsibility to preserve our desert setting. Today, we are beginning to meet that responsibility. Solar panels are going up on the city hall parking garage as we begin to bring clean energy to Surprise. Last summer, we experimented with expanding City Hall hours to improve service and help the environment by using less energy. People loved the expanded Monday thru Thursday hours, so we made it a year round schedule. Already we have saved thousands in energy costs.
We are taking Surprise into a sustainable future! Recently, Surprise created a Sustainability Division with existing staff that will look for grant money and ways to reduce our carbon footprint. This action is a direct result of what the public tell us they want. Sustainability, is part of the Strategic Plan council considers tonight.
In our Strategic Plan input sessions, people said they really wanted to see an increase in recycling, and we have responded! We have come to an agreement with Waste Management and Surprise residents will be able to recycle household glass and more plastics than ever. This is a dramatic expansion of our curbside recycling program. It is also good news for our environment. It will even save us money since we will be compensated for collecting these recyclables.
Like many of you, I enjoy telling distant friends and relatives about what a wonderful community we share. I encourage them to come see a Spring Training game, or enjoy hiking in our fabulous White Tank Mountains. I get so enthusiastic they may think I am exaggerating, but the truth is, we live in such an attractive community, amidst such beautiful surroundings, sometimes we can't quite believe it ourselves.
It's that passion we feel for Surprise that makes us want to share it with the world! That is why we formed a Tourism Advisory Committee in 2010, and late last year, we approved their Strategic Plan. Tourism is Arizona's single biggest industry, and Surprise will be in the game!
Today, with the spectacular success of Spring Training and Championship Tennis, we are building that critical mass of what I call pure tourism: people who are here because we have created attractions that draw them here.
We are going build on that. We are setting a goal of having Surprise, Sedona and Scottsdale all mentioned in the same breath when people talk about beautiful and welcoming Arizona destinations.
When we move forward with our strategic plan tonight, you will see sound, focused plans for tourism creating an entertainment corridor in Surprise, developing a year round framework of festivals, and talking with developers about an eco resort at the foot of the White Tanks. In other words, creating a unique Surprise experience that will attract people from around the country and around the world.
As we continue to work together, I believe that when we celebrate our 100th birthday, future residents will look back with appreciation. They will say, today's community was a community of vision, even in tough times that we were the people who brought good jobs to Surprise and put us on the road to a true live/work/play community; that we saw the potential for tourism and built up a world class destination. I believe people will look back and see us as a community where tough times didn't divide people, but instead, brought us together as an engaged community, one with the good sense to look out for each other and nurture home grown small businesses. They will see a community that acted on the need to save our environment, preserving it as a priceless heritage.
In a tough economic climate, we are doing remarkably well! That is the message that each of us should share and feel good about, because it is a message of how strongly we feel about the goodness and the future of our community.
I look forward to seeing you out in the community, to talking with you individually about our challenges and our plans, and to hearing your ideas about an even greater future. Thank you for being here today, and thank you for all you are doing to make Surprise such a special place!"