Editor's note: We invited the mayors of Stanislaus County's smaller cities to share their thoughts on what 2013 will bring for their communities. This is part of that series. Previous essays are at www.modbee.com/opinion.
This begins my seventh year as mayor of Turlock, and throughout my tenure, no two years have been alike. Each year has presented its own unique challenges and in contrast, there have also been new and exciting things happening in our community. As 2013 begins, I anticipate that this year will be no different.
While unemployment for Stanislaus County has now dropped to approximately 14.5 percent, Turlock's unemployment is in the 10 percent range, which is better than during the same period last year. This figure speaks well to our jobs-housing balance and the superior planning we have done as a community.
We have brought jobs to our community and created a place where we want to work, live and raise a family. Sixty percent of the people who live in Turlock work in Turlock, and 75 percent of the people who live in Turlock work in Stanislaus County.
The Modesto Bee recently published a story showing education levels in each community. Turlock is proud that one in four residents of our community has a college education.
Going forward in 2013, we will use this kind of information to attract employers looking for a higher skilled work force to open their businesses in our Turlock Regional Industrial Park.
We look forward to the opening of the first phase of Blue Diamond's 15-year, three-phase capacity expansion and investment in our community. Blue Diamond is on track to be operational by the time the 2013 almond harvest begins. They are hiring for plant positions, and we welcome the new jobs to Turlock.
We have also recently welcomed Olive Garden, Old Navy and Ulta to Monte Vista Crossings. The retailers of Monte Vista Crossings report sales revenues exceeding those of this time last year.
The city will complete its new public safety facility in the summer of 2013. This will fully consolidate the administrative and support functions of our Police and Fire departments to better serve our community. This beautiful new facility will also enhance our downtown area and is located next to the recently completed, award-winning Carnegie Arts Center.
We are also looking forward to the completion of the Avena Bella, the affordable housing project in which the city is a partner. Construction began in February 2012, and it is anticipated to be ready for families to move in before the 2013-14 school year starts. This $18 million project will provide 80 two- and three- bedroom units for income-qualified families.
Over the years I have talked about Turlock being the jewel of the Central Valley, and I still believe that to be true. Some of the tough decisions that we have made over the past few years have provided stability today while ensuring a bright future. We are beginning to see the fruits of our labors in terms of improving finances and business investment. I expect this trend to continue.
I see this City Council committed over the next four years to the ideals that have made Turlock a unique and wonderful place to live.
Lazar served on the City Council for 12 years before being elected mayor of Turlock in 2006.