The longest serving mayor in the state of Tennessee again gave an upbeat recount of the city in the year just finished as well as a bright forecast for the year just begun.
The mayor spoke in general terms before addressing specific topics such as economic growth, industry and the city’s new airport scheduled for opening on Jan. 25.
“Though the year 2012 saw storms and tornadoes affecting many of our friends and neighbors, it also brought to light a well-known fact — that this community is one of the most caring and giving of any city anywhere,” he said.
The kindness of Clevelanders ultimately led the City Council to adopt “The City With Spirit” in February 2012 as the municipality’s official slogan.
He said the destructive winds, rain and tornadoes that hit several neighborhoods opened up windows of opportunity for us to help our neighbors. As in any tragedy, the citizenry answered the call and helped one another, he said.
“Many are now on the road to recovery and we continue to pray for each of them,” he said. “Our Long-Term Recovery Organization, a spinoff of the Mayors Coalition, continues to stay actively helping those affected from both the 2011 and 2012 storms.”
This community is blessed to have many organizations in place funded and staffed with volunteers and caring citizens, he said. Among those organizations is Habitat for Humanity.
Habitat works in partnership with God and people from all walks of life to develop communities by building and selling houses with zero-interest loans, and establishing a foundation for holistic, healthy community growth, Rowland stated. The organization completed its 100th home this past year and building continues to give even more families an opportunity for affordable housing.
“This is a volunteer-based organization that is a beacon of hope for families who are deserving and willing to give back to others,” he said.
People for Care and Learning, headquartered in Cleveland, is building a city in Cambodia to help families in that country who need comfortable and sanitary housing and clean, fresh water. In conjunction with that project, Cleveland partnered with a sister city in Cambodia and many local residents are helping to make this project a reality. One comfortable house equipped with modern plumbing and safe water costs only $1,000. The new community will enable children to walk the streets without wading in raw sewage.
“Of the 10 metro areas in the state, Cleveland leads the way as the fastest growing, and in its efforts toward economic recovery,” Rowland said. “Cleveland’s metro area is the fifth largest in construction in the Southeastern United States. Wacker Chemie is the construction leader with its $1.8 billion investment.”
During the past year, the new business incubator on the Cleveland State Community College campus added more space for local entrepreneurs.
“It’s amazing the number of small business that have been created through this program,” he said.
Several local industries had good news to share in 2012.
“Cleveland’s Duracell Plant announced it is now making all D and C cell batteries for the entire world. M&M Mars announced another addition for the future, while Hardwick Clothes, one of Tennessee’s oldest manufacturers, announced it added more production at the Cleveland plant. In addition to its quality men and women’s garments, it added the line of U.S. Army dress blue jackets. As many in the community already know, Hardwick already manufactures uniforms for Delta, U.S. Airways, and Jet Blue, the mayor said.
“Our strong industrial base continues to grow, making us the fifth-largest manufacturing city in the state,” he continued. “That equates to this community being in the top five cities providing the most industrial jobs.
“An even greater growth spurt has surfaced in our commercial arena this past year. New shopping opportunities are now here at home. Carmike Cinemas just opened Bradley Square 12 movie theater [complex], giving the city a second quality entertainment venue in addition to UEC Theatres 14 at Exit 20.”
Continued growth in tourism is evident at Exit 27 by the recent opening of the new Holiday Inn Express on Paul Huff Parkway and the Hampton Inn that will soon open on Frontage Road.
“We will soon see the opening of a new LongHorn Steakhouse next door to Holiday Inn Express and the Sante Fa Cattle Co. steakhouse at Bradley Square Mall,” he said. “Our successful tourism efforts and our industrial and commercial growth can be attributed greatly to our Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce, where the staff and volunteers work diligently to bring all components together in order to make this a thriving community in which to live work and play.
“One week from tomorrow, Cleveland will leap ahead in bringing transportation into the 21st Century as we officially open our new Cleveland Regional Jetport.
“While we have suffered with one of the most unsafe airports in the state, we are now positioned for more industrial growth and that means jobs for our young people who can stay near home and pursue their careers.
“To illustrate the growing importance and rise in air travel, remember Hamilton County has three airports and Polk County has two. Our Jetport is long overdue. For a long time, I felt somewhat alone in my desire to see aviation move ahead. I cannot say enough about the job that’s been done by the Cleveland Municipal Airport Authority. The board focused on the project and saw it through to the end.”