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New Haven mayor: surge in economic activity to continue in 2017

March 13th, 2017

By Kevin Leininger | News-Sentinel

In terms of economic development, 2016 was by far the busiest year in his nearly two decades as New Haven's mayor, Terry McDonald was expected to report in his annual state of the city address Monday — and 2017 is expected to bring more of the same, along with a request for temporary relief from sewage mandates.

In addition to six job-creating projects in the pipeline, the Republican now in his 18th year as mayor said the city's plan to acquire the federal government's vast and vacant Casad Depot east of town could create a "thriving and productive industrial and technology center, with hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in assessed valuation, producing goods and service that are in demand, all while increasing the wages here in our region."

McDonald thanked the Capital Improvement Board for its recent award of up to $1 million dollars for acquisition of the depot and said the city is in the process of receiving quotes for an appraisal of the property while the federal government produces its own appraisal.

Redevelopment of the depot is important, McDonald said, because "available buildings and building lots are very limited here in New Haven. Therefore it is necessary to develop more build ready industrial space, and potentially in the near future a 'spec' building all in our efforts to keep good paying jobs here for our residents." The depot, he added, could become the focal point of a "New Haven Triangle" between U.S. 24, I-469 and U.S. 30.

"The number of opportunities available in this area are numerous and developers and companies are recognizing that this area is desirable for its location and proximity to major routes of commerce and to the business world east of the Mississippi River," he stated.

Nor is Fort Wayne the only area city working to improve its downtown, McDonald noted. Local leaders organized "Wednesday Night on Broadway" to enhance shopping opportunities and awareness and are also creating a "Main Street" program that would allow downtown property owners to take advantage of various building-improvement opportunities.

Despite all of these opportunities and more, McDonald said, "so many people don't recognize us as a location to consider or they have a misguided perception of New Haven." To that end, he added, videos have been produced and will be placed on the city's web site and elsewhere "to proclaim the good news of how great our city is." That could help reverse the area's population loss, which he called a "crisis."

"These places we compete with have become successful because they care about what you, the individual, will contribute to the greater good. They have embraced the entrepreneurial attitude of 'anything is possible with enough hard work,' " McDonald said. "They have embraced big dreams and goals."

McDonald said he supports efforts to improve the East Allen County Schools and will continue to upgrade the city's infrastructure, including a long-awaited community center. McDonald hopes to delay at least one planned upgrade, however.

McDonald said Indiana Department of Environmental Management mandates to reduce discharge of untreated sewage into the river during heavy rains have "strapped New Haven to a lopsided agreement that will have a significant impact on our rate payers. We are actively investigating options to complete the needed work as required by IDEM, we will be appealing the time line and asking our legislative delegation to help to achieve a significant delay in the implementation of the proposed work that is due to begin in 2018-2019."

McDonald said he does not oppose the mandate but will seek a delay of up to 12 years "in order for current utility bonds to be paid off." The city will also work to limit the infiltration of water into the pipes, which would help limit so-called "combined sewer overflows."

The speech was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Monday at the Orchid Events Center, 11508 Lincoln Highway E.

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