The City of Richardson held its annual State of the City Address Wednesday, Jan. 31, featuring the dynamic community’s many noteworthy successes of 2017, as well as future priorities. Mayor Paul Voelker and members of the Richardson City Council delivered the report as part of a free, open-to-the-public event at the Eisemann Center for the Performing Arts and Corporate Presentations.
The event focused on key community issues, as well as priorities and goals previously identified by the Richardson City Council. The City’s most significant 2017 achievements were concentrated in the areas of strategic economic development and reinvestment, finance, internal processes and community culture – the areas identified as most critical to ensure Richardson’s continued success.
Primary focuses and specific highlights from each area included the following:
Placing Focus on Strategic Economic Development, Community Investment and Reinvestment
- Thanks to cooperative efforts by Richardson and neighboring cities, DART’s board approved funding for the Cotton Belt Commuter Rail Line, enabling construction to begin later this year.
- Work is now underway to build a new $78 million Public Safety Campus. These facilities will replace the police and fire stations currently at the site.
- Contributions to the City’s Economic Development Fund continue to promote economic diversification and creation of quality employment centers.
- Richardson continues to enjoy its status as the Official International Business Capital of North Texas, as designated by the Texas Legislature.
- The Mayor’s Office of International Business Development hosted 36 foreign delegations, with 125 visitors from 20 countries, and took part in trade missions to Japan, France and England.
- Richardson was chosen as the location for new operations by four foreign companies. Today, 64 international businesses either operate or host corporate campuses in Richardson.
- The Home Improvement Incentive Program provided more than $1 million to 118 property owners, denoting the first time in its history to reach that mark in a single year. Those owners added nearly $16 million in value to their properties and neighborhoods.
- Enhanced infrastructure improvements including concrete repairs are being made to more than 13 miles of streets and nearly eight miles of alleys and sidewalks, and a six-year plan to replace all street name signs is now in year four of progress.
- Richardson added one more mile of bike lanes on Alma between Arapaho and Greenville, with an additional four miles of lanes slated in future budgets.
Maintaining the City’s Strong Financial Position
- For the eighth year in a row, both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s reaffirmed Richardson’s AAA status, the highest possible rating available for creditworthiness.
- Richardson has received the highest recognition possible for financial transparency from the Texas Comptroller’s Office and has achieved the highest ranking possible every year since the rating program began eight years ago.
- After the last fiscal year’s across the board 1 cent rate decrease, an additional $10,000 was approved this fiscal year to the senior tax exemption, bringing seniors’ total tax exemption to $80,000.
Ensuring Internal Processes are Clear and Easy to Understand
- Richardson earned the Celebrating Leadership in Development Excellence, or CLIDE award, from North Central Texas Council of Governments, for its innovative planning and implementation of the CityLine development. With this most recent honor, Richardson has now earned an impressive eight CLIDE Awards, with at least one in each of the program’s five categories.
- The City was honored with the American Heart Association’s Lifeline Emergency Medical Service Gold Award for its performance-focused improvements to get heart attack victims to critical life-saving services. By working with Methodist Richardson Medical Center and other area hospitals, Richardson EMS has been able to make such transports and treatment possible in as little as 43 minutes.
- Recently, the City has also placed increased focus on developing better channels to promote philanthropic opportunities, including supporting the Parks and Recreation Department’s plans for an inclusive playground at Cottonwood Park. The City’s Animal Shelter also received its first mobile adoption trailer made possible by a $35,000 donation from AnimaLuv. Additionally, the Richardson Public Library received a $5,000 donation to create Darbey’s StoryWalk®, now open to the public.
Preserving Richardson’s Culture as a Desirable Place to Live, Work and Engage in the Community
- Grant funds totaling nearly $360,000 were given this fiscal year to more than 30 local art and performance groups, supporting live theater, music and dance performances and several multi-cultural events.
- Richardson earned local and national recognitions as a great place to live or invest, including Safehome.com’s report ranking the city as the country’s fourth safest place to live, among those with more than 100,000 people, Smart Asset’s second place ranking in Texas for the Healthiest Housing Market and seventh place on Wallet Hub’s national list for best places first-time home buyers should buy a home.
- Richardson’s Eisemann Center for Performing Arts and Corporate Presentations celebrated its 15th anniversary. The venue attracted more than 175,000 spectators and hosted nearly 500 events last year.
- A new addition to Richardson’s art scene is Art Walk, developed by the City in partnership with the Business Council for the Arts and Leadership Arts Institute. Richardson’s Art Walk is a self-guided, 2.8-mile route that provides opportunities to discover public art by notable artists in the Galatyn Plaza and CityLine areas.
- Richardson now has nearly 20 miles of bike lanes on local streets and more than 42 miles of hike and bike trails across the city and is recognized as a Bike Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists and was recertified as a Platinum Scenic City, one of only 71 cities in Texas with scenic city status.
Other areas of focus during the presentation included education, health and other important developments happening across Richardson. Highlights included:
- The STEM and STEAM programs in Richardson and Plano Independent School District schools experienced continued success serving the community.
- Eighty-three percent of Richardson ISD schools and 87 percent of Plano ISD schools earned at least one academic distinction, compared to 52 percent of schools across Texas.
- Both districts also have teachers recognized by state agencies and by the local tech industry for their leadership in bringing innovative studies to the classroom, including Richardson ISD’s Henry Vo who received a Tech Titan award.
- Niche.com rated the schools that serve Richardson third best in the nation and Goodcall.com ranked Richardson 25th best in the U.S. for places a teacher can choose to live and work.
- U.S. News & World Report’s rankings of best colleges in the nation listed UT Dallas as the second-best value out of all public schools in Texas and the campus was also one of only four public schools in Texas to make Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine’s best rankings for value.
- More than $2 million in workforce training grants were awarded to Richland College for the delivery and training programs that support Richardson-based Real Page, Inc. and Associa.
- The Methodist Health System Board approved an $85 million project at the Renner campus that includes the addition of two floors with 150 beds, a ninth operating room and a seven-story parking garage.
- Methodist’s Campbell Road Campus for Continuing Care also expanded with the addition of the Older Adult Behavioral Health unit, and the Richardson ISD Health Sciences Academy – the first of its kind in Texas.
- Methodist Richardson Medical Center also added a new Center for Surgery and Digestive Diseases.
- Medical City Plano, one of the transport hospitals for Richardson EMS, attained Level I trauma status. It is one of only 18 Level I trauma centers in the state, one of only three in North Texas and it is the only level one trauma center in Collin County.
Other Major Community Developments
- Richardson submitted a proposal to Amazon for its new HQ2 project and is one of the few cities in the nation that meets the company’s needs.
- Richardson retained prestigious dual honors as an Accredited Economic Development Organization and 5-star Chamber of Commerce, making it one of just a few communities across the nation with both commendations.
- The eight-month Collins and Arapaho Transit-Oriented Development and Innovation District Study, set to start in March, will create a long-term plan to attract research-oriented business to a 1,200-acre area in central Richardson.
- The formation of the Mayor’s Intern Program, coordinated in conjunction with Richardson ISD, will place 50 students in local industries this summer.
- In February, the City will launch its new philanthropy website featuring large and small gifting opportunities. This is the result of the City Council’s initiative to help make it easier to identify donation opportunities for those wanting to give back to the community.
The address was available for live online viewing on the City website, www.cor.net. Archived video of the remarks will be available soon on the site.