By Mayor Harold Weinbrecht
As mayor I am honored and proud to deliver my 10th State of Cary address.
As we begin the year, our citizens continue to enjoy a premium quality of life, a flourishing economy, and a strong job market. Cary has an incorporated area of just under 60 square miles. Over 159,000 people from all over the world call Cary home, and we continue to have a sustainable growth rate of less than three percent. We have the lowest tax rate in Wake County with the highest quality of life.
2016 was another great year for Cary as we once again received numerous accolades. We are the safest municipality of our size in the nation according to the FBI. We recently received the “Gold Medal Award” by the National Recreation and Parks Association which means we have the best parks system in the country.
We also saw important leadership changes in 2016. After an exhaustive nine-month search, the Town Council appointed Sean Stegall as Town Manager last summer. Mr. Stegall has been challenging his staff and the Council to consider innovative ways of doing things to take Cary to the next level. Improving on our excellent levels of service will not be an easy task but it something that we are well positioned to tackle.
As we move forward Cary will be challenged with aging infrastructure which will require additional investment. That will put a great amount of pressure on the elected officials to cut levels of service, sacrifice aesthetics, reduce programming, generate more revenue, or all of the above.
Maintaining and improving on our excellent levels of service will require many changing the way we do things. To grow our economy we must aggressively recruit companies by traveling outside of North Carolina instead of waiting for them to show interest in us. At the same time we must overcome many obstacles such as the business unfriendly HB2 legislation.
Before recruitment begins we must rebrand ourselves to change the perception by some that Cary is a small town in North Carolina that is no longer a progressive state, or that Cary is just a bedroom community. We must let everyone know that Cary has worldwide headquarters of major corporations; we are America’s home for amateur sports and much, much more. Our brand needs to tout our incredible demographics and immense talent pool.
We must also help our existing businesses thrive and prosper, encourage public-private partnerships, and leverage technology.
So where are we focusing our efforts today?
On January 24th the Cary Community Plan was approved after a five year major community effort. This all inclusive plan includes development, transportation, housing, the environment, economic development, and other related topics. It was crafted to protect what has made us great and is insightful of what is needed to grow our economy and meet the needs of our changing population. A major chapter of the Cary Community Plan is the Eastern Gateway consisting of the state property, the mall, and much more. While office will be a priority there it will not be the dominant feature.
Downtown has been a major focus area especially during this past year with the completion of the Academy Streetscape, the near completion of the first phase of the downtown park, and the approved funding of a library with an integrated art parking deck. There have been many private investments including the nearly completed 25,000 square foot Mid-Town Square building and the $51 million development proposal at Chatham Street and Harrison Avenue, which is still in the works.
This year will be another busy and exciting time with the launching of the Town’s new website, street projects at Cary Parkway and High House Road, the realignment of the Carpenter Fire Station Road Bridge, and Green Level West construction; and the approval of the Wake Transit plan which should expand our bus service.
2017 will be an exciting time as we see many areas that have been waiting years for change to begin transforming. Like previous years we will continue to face challenges. But I am confident that with help of Cary staff, community business leaders, and our citizen’s involvement we are well positioned to confront any challenge and remain the greatest municipality in America.