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State of city: Hickman wants to set the bar, not raise it

By Mike Marturello 
mmarturello@kpcmedia.com

Feb 19, 2018

ANGOLA — Mayor Dick Hickman doesn’t want to raise the bar for the community, he wants Angola to set the bar by which other cities aspire to achieve.

That was one of the many accolades the mayor presented in his 18th State of the City report presented Monday night to the Angola Common Council.

“My goal for the City of Angola is not to just keep raising the bar. I want the City of Angola to be the bar that other communities look up to. It won’t be easy. But it shouldn’t be easy. It’s a pretty lofty goal. But it is a goal that all units of local government should be shooting for. After all that is what we have all been elected to do. We will always strive to give our citizens the biggest bang for their hard-earned tax dollars,” Hickman said.

The address noted numerous accomplishments for 2017, most of which were partnerships with both public and private entities.

Hickman noted in his 2017 address that the city had momentum building, “And that momentum just kept building this past year,” he said.

He pointed to projects at the Interstate 69-U.S. 20 corridor, at Trine University and in the downtown.

At the I-69-U.S. 20 corridor, the city landed a Community Crossings grant from the state for $1 million. Private businesses Angola First Development and Speedway Inc. each provided $1 million. And Angola put up $1 million in Major Moves funds for the certified technology park being developed.

“This allows us to take a $1 million dollar grant and turn it into a $4 million dollar investment to create what will be the beginning of the Angola Innovation Park. This investment could create millions of dollars of commercial, retail and business industrial growth at this location along with hopefully hundreds of new, higher paying jobs for our citizens in the years to come,” Hickman said.

Trine will likely provide an educational component to the project, and Hickman used that to segue to the two large projects that recently opened at the university, the MTI Center and Thunder Ice Arena, of which the city helped provide in-kind support for a $3 million Regional Cities grant.

Hickman said the new facilities will draw more students to Angola, along with more teams for competition, visitors that will be spending money with local businesses and provide facilities for residents to use.

“These will be quality of life opportunities that most communities our size can only dream of having available to them. The Trine University and City of Angola partnership is one that we need to keep building on,” Hickman said.

Hickman also pointed to redevelopment in the downtown, singling out Menno Wagler, Jeremy Bracey and John and Chris Sutton for their development of upper story apartment complexes that adding housing and the Suttons for buying the former Strand Theatre and turning it into a banquet facility that is expected to open this year.

Hickman said the city may have been a bit uncomfortable at times in doing these partnerships.

“These are projects the City of Angola just had never done before. But we are starting to see rewards for our efforts already,” Hickman said.

Hickman spoke with pride about his Mayor’s Youth Leadership Council, the president of which, Annie Degadillo, gave a report earlier in Monday’s meeting.

“Although this council is just getting started I can see the enthusiasm they have for their community and the engagement they have in wanting to make our community better. This is a great, untapped resource that will bring new ideas on how to improve our city from the young adult’s perspective,” Hickman said.

In 2018, Hickman said there will be a lot of development from projects already announced, plus other industries and businesses are looking at Angola with interest.

He said there’s a need for housing, and the city will continue working with the Steuben County Economic Development Corp., Freedom Academy at the Angola Training Center and Trine to provide education and skills training for the community’s workforce.

Hickman said he believes the foundation has been built to help with growth and bring jobs that will increase household income growth.

As always, Hickman started his report talking about the city’s financial well being. He said the city started the year with cash and investments of a little more than $17 million, with cash on hand of nearly $3.4 million.