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Mayor: State of the city is strong

By David Bodenheimer
The Dispatch

Published: Wednesday, September 21, 2011 at 2:10 p.m.


Lexington Area Chamber of Commerce President Burr Sullivan said he felt optimistic moving forward after hearing an update on Lexington and Davidson County's economic climate at the annual State of our Community event Wednesday morning sponsored by the chamber


Both Lexington Mayor John Walser and Davidson County Board of Commissioners' Chairman Sam Watford leveraged strong financials and economic development during their remarks at each level of government as a solid foundation continuing to drive Lexington and Davidson County. Though future challenges were acknowledged, Sullivan said the messages from the elected officials were relieving.


"All this I find uplifting," he said. "We have the talent to address the challenges we have, and we have resources to go forward in transforming our economy, so I leave here more optimistic."

Walser opened his comments at the J. Smith Young YMCA highlighting the city's savings account.


"I can report to you today that the state of the city is sound, as I have said before and it bears repeating," he said. "Our city has a solid AA bond rating, and current unappropriated fund balance is at a level three times what the state requires. Financial management is critical to the operation of our city."


The state requires cities to have three months of operating capital in reserve funds. Walser said Lexington has banked between $5.5 and $6 million.


Walser continued with economic development in Lexington and called the city's central business district uptown "vibrant," alive with new businesses coupled with successful iconic retailers. He also touched on recent projects like the Sav-A-Lot distribution center and Vitacost as playing critical roles in the future of Lexington.


"Mainstays like Lanier's Hardware, Army Navy Store, Candy Factory and the Olde Homestead plus the city's civic center and the county's historical museum in the Old Court House uptown Lexington is an incubator for new small business," Walser said. "I have participated in 19 ribbon cuttings for new businesses in the past year."


Tourism is a growing industry for Lexington, Walser said, adding the emerging market for tourism is a source of jobs and revenue in the new city economy.


"Tourism spending is up nearly 11 percent in 2010 in Davidson County to $119 million," he said. "That translates to 880 jobs, $16.8 million in payroll and $4.1 million in local tax revenues."


At the county level, Watford reiterated several points he made at Thomasville's version of the State of the City and County event in August.


Like Walser, Watford said the county's strong financial shape has helped with huge projects like the new middle school in the northern part of the county.


Watford said a 2010 audit of the county showed a fund balance of over $40 million.


Commissioners' recent approval of expanding sewer near the Interstate 85 and U.S. Highway 64 East interchange shows the county's commitment to encouraging future commercial and economic growth, he said.


"I'm optimistic," Watford said of the future. He exemplified TIMCO Aerosystems beginning their operations in Wallburg as being the type of future economic growth Davidson County needed.

"It came with considerable up-front costs, way beyond anything we've ever done before," he said. "But they'll be huge partners in our future."


David Bodenheimer can be reached at 249-3981, ext. 227, or at david.bodenheimer@the-dispatch.com.

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