This week I will be working with staff from the City Manager’s Office and the Department of Finance to present information to the agencies that rate the City’s credit-worthiness, for those interested in investing in bonds we may issue. The story we will tell is one of success, strategic actions, and preparation for the future. The information is positive, though not without challenges. The future we envision is hopeful, though not without risk and not without acknowledgement of the issues that confront us. The positive reception of this story is vital to the success of our community – without it the schools we renovate or build, the streets we rehabilitate, the parks we enhance, the libraries we expand, and the bridges we replace will all cost more and take longer to complete.
What is the Story?
So what is the story? What can we say about our current and future financial condition as a city? First, we can say that the City has benefited from a continuous history of conservative and responsible financial leadership both by appointed administrative officials and elected Mayors and Councils. Their leadership has ensured that we have always balanced our expenses with projected revenues, have maintained funds in reserve for those “rainy days,” have paid our bills and met our financial commitments as promised, and have continued to strategically invest in what continues to make us economically strong and a great place to live.
The story also includes an economy that continues to strengthen and expand. An economy that includes record low unemployment, population growth for the first time in decades, growing real estate values and a place people want to stay and raise a family, start a business, or visit. Roanoke is strategically located – in many ways serving as the “hub” for Southwest Virginia, providing the retail, cultural, and medical services for a region consisting of more than 400,000. Private investment in the local economy has created over 2,400 jobs in the last three years with nearly $180 million in investment in the last year alone.
Roanoke consistently finds itself on many of the “best of” lists we have become accustomed to seeing all over the web. Appearance on these lists has helped fuel private investment and the more than $800 million annually spent by visitors to our area. The City is recognized as a very livable city with access to world-class healthcare, quality arts and cultural offerings, breathtaking outdoor amenities, and a very low cost of living compared to the rest of Virginia and the United States as a whole.
It is easier than ever to come and go from our City due to the flights offered at the Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport and the recent return of Amtrak. It is easier than ever to receive support to start a business with assistance of entities like the CoLab or RAMP, as well as all the great offerings provided by Virginia Western Community College and the Higher Education Center.
The City is working more aggressively than ever to make the current success we are experiencing as resilient as practical and as equitable as possible. Efforts for early childhood learning, improved graduation rates, and stronger partnerships with higher education and workforce development partners create numerous paths of opportunities for individuals to succeed. The City and its regional partners continue to grow opportunities in some of the strongest economic sectors in the World – bio-medical research, healthcare, and advanced manufacturing are a few such examples. The City continues to ensure its budget is as resilient as possible by growing its reserves to hedge against economic downturns and minimize disruption.
The City continues to seek the most cost-effective ways to make key investments in infrastructure, services, and facilities to ensure we have the type of city our citizen’s demand and that best position us for the future. The City continues to aggressively plan for and invest in areas of our city that struggle, to ensure all benefit from our growing economy.
The story has been decades in the making and continues to be created each day by all of us as we go about our daily lives here in Roanoke. It is actually a really good story and one I enjoy being able to share with the folks from New York on your behalf!
- Bob Cowell