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TMCNet:  Gilbert's 'State of the Town' address highlights future goals

[February 08, 2013]

Gilbert's 'State of the Town' address highlights future goals

Feb 08, 2013 (East Valley Tribune (Mesa - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Gilbert gave its first State of the Town address in digital form Thursday, incorporating town council members, community leaders and business owners in addition to Mayor John Lewis.

The mayor spoke to members of the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce Thursday afternoon at a luncheon, introducing a video address to the audience prior to the official launch later that evening at the town council meeting.

Most of the video highlighted positive elements of the town, including Gilbert being named 33rd best place to live by Money Magazine, its status as of the safest cities in the country in another ranking, and a nod as most playful city by KaBoom, a nonprofit dedicated to developing playgrounds and park settings for communities nationwide.

"It's a positive time in Gilbert," Lewis told the Tribune after the address. "We have been a great bedroom community, as you can see by the number of housing permits. And now it's time to build a strong business community." Gilbert, Lewis told the crowd before the video started, is moving from the "hay capital of the world" to the satellite-building, algae-growing and cancer-fighting capital of the world.

"Gilbert's best days are ahead of us, as far as economic development is concerned," Vice Mayor Ben Cooper said during the video. "We've reached the time in our history that is the time for jobs." The development of Rivulon, a mixed-use commercial and residential development, is expected to begin construction this year, Cooper said.

"Not only will it bring employers and the high-quality jobs that come with them, but there will be retail, restaurants, exercise facilities, entertainment uses and that diversifies our economy and expands our tax base," he added.

Heliae, a commercial algae production company, grew from 35 to nearly 80 employees last year, said Craig Johnson, Heliae CFO, during the digital address. The company has begun expansion on a commercial plant with the expectation of hiring an additional 20 to 25 employees.

Brian Sexton, a spokesman for Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, mentioned in the video how two gates opened last year, and that the facility will open two more this year.

"Gateway had an epic year of growth in the terms of passenger growth," he said.

In 2011, the airport saw fewer than 1 million passengers, but with the expansion over the last year, more than 1.4 million passengers went through the airport.

Last year at the Orbital Sciences satellite building facility, the company built the LANDsat 8 satellite. Michael Miller, Orbital Sciences Corporation senior vice president of science and environmental satellite programs, said in the video that the satellite is scheduled to launch Monday.

Orbital is set to build another 81 satellites for the Iridium NEXT program at the Gilbert facility this year, he said.

As before the housing boom, Gilbert is still having population growth that can be seen through the number of new housing permits, Lewis said in the video.

"Housing permits jumped from 1,000 in 2008 to 2,400 in 2012," he said.

"We have both things to be proud of and things to look forward to when it comes to transportation in2013 improvements," added council member Jenn Daniels during her portion of the digital address. "There have been great improvements to our roads." Last year saw improvements to Riggs Road, Chandler Heights Boulevard and the Power Road corridor and there are upcoming improvements to intersections, such as Higley and Williams Field roads, Daniels said.

Gilbert is also a contender for a location in the proposed commuter train line that would go from Phoenix to Tucson, Daniels said.

"You could imagine what it might look like to have a commuter rail station where our old rail site once was, right in the heart of Gilbert," she said.

"We still have the most efficient government when you compare the number of town employees per residents," Lewis told the Tribune after the airing. "I don't see that changing." ------ ------ Watch now: Gilbert State of the Town Contact writer: (480) 898-5645 or ___ (c)2013 East Valley Tribune (Mesa, Ariz.) Visit East Valley Tribune (Mesa, Ariz.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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