Photo by J.D. Fitzgerald
Marana residents, business owners, and leaders gathered on Friday, April 29 to reflect on Marana's State of the Town. Here, you can read the full text of the speech delivered by Mayor Honea, as well as view the accompanying videos.
Official Transcript of 2016 State of the Town Address
The State of the Town is you. The State of the Town is all of you. Marana is a Town with many faces. We have a thriving business community. We have one of the best school districts in Arizona. We preserve and maintain some of the most beautiful open spaces in the state. Our residents are passionately committed to their community. Since 1977, Marana has grown from a small farming and ranching community to a thriving Town that has become a destination for many. I am proud of the tremendous strides we have made, and I am even more excited about our future.
A few years ago, we developed a Strategic Plan which entirely reflects your expectations for Marana. You are the drivers of this progress. It is because of you that we will be able to achieve these ambitious goals. You can expect your government to focus on commerce, community, recreation, heritage, and innovation. Across this Town, I see examples of these focus areas every day.
Marana’s Strategic Plan starts with commerce, and there is a reason for that. Without business, without people generating income, we could not pay for police, parks, roads, and everything else that makes this a great community.
Since I stood here in April of last year, a lot has happened to expand commerce in Marana. Our new Premium Outlet Mall at Marana Center is welcoming visitors from across the Southwest and northern Mexico. It now has 71 different retail stores, and there are many more to come! In the near future, Marana Center will offer hotels, auto dealerships, office space, and other national retail stores. All this development creates the jobs that drive our local economy.
What also makes me proud is the effort the Town made for the mall project to happen as quickly as possible. Marana’s business development center collaborated with Vintage Partners and the Simon Property Group every step of the way. Marana is one of the best places in Arizona to do business, and this project proves that claim.
A few months ago, Marana introduced a brand new tourism website, DiscoverMarana.org. This tool is sharing all our community has to offer, with tourists from across Arizona and the world. We have world-class hiking trails, scenic landscapes, and some of the best golf courses in the country. Even the location of today’s event, the Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain, represents the high standards of Marana, and is regarded as one of the best in the country.
Of course, in addition to showcasing what we already have, our commitment to commerce also demands that we attract new industry. International Towers, Incorporated is constructing a major facility along Tangerine Road, and will employ 75 highly skilled tech sector employees. They will work with the private sector as well as the federal government to provide communications and security technologies.
In addition to large companies like International Towers, Marana is also home to a growing number of small businesses. Last year alone, the Town issued 249 new business licenses.
To help them along the way, the Marana Chamber of Commerce advocates for our business community. They currently serve over 560 members. This membership serves as a dedicated network with a common purpose: You.
The Chamber provides many opportunities for local business owners to grow their customer base. The Shop Marana program encourages shoppers to support the local economy. By the way, they also asked me to remind you to stop at the gift shop on your way out!
The Chamber also gathers business and community leaders together to share information, strengthen relationships, and exchange ideas that help improve our Town. These programs add value to the community, and will help it grow for many years to come.
In order to anticipate and plan for this economic growth, the Town is currently developing a brand new Economic Development Strategic Plan. This effort will help Marana identify specific goals and objectives that will benefit not only local business, but the residents who live and shop in the community as well.
Commerce in Marana will allow this Town to grow economically. As that growth occurs, our population will increase also. In 2015, we added 621 new homes to this community. That is 621 families who could have put down roots anywhere, and they chose Marana. I am also excited to share with you that last year, Marana had the largest residential land sale in the State of Arizona. D.R. Horton purchased the Saguaro Bloom property for $42 million. This highlights the choices people are making to invest in this community.
Whether you have just moved to Marana or your family has lived here for generations, we know that you are the backbone of this community. You support our stores, play in our parks, and go to our schools. You are the reason we have dedicated the second section of the Strategic Plan to Community.
Community can mean many different things to many different people. To some, it means supporting parks and public safety. To others, it means investing in infrastructure like water and roads. Our pavement preservation program, for example, is serving residents across the Town, so that every road in Marana provides a safe and smooth surface for drivers and their passengers.
With Marana’s positive growth, we will also concentrate on making infrastructure improvements in some of our historic neighborhoods as well. These projects will include parks, roads, sidewalks, street lighting, and where needed, drainage systems. We believe that by investing in these historic communities in smaller projects, we can make large scale improvements more manageable over time.
In addition to these efforts, a number of nonprofits are providing needed services to help support families and individuals. The Marana Community Food Bank, for example, is collecting and providing food for families across this region. MHC Health Care, with its main campus in north Marana, is providing medical services to residents across the community. We proudly support their efforts, to improve the lives of everyone.
Last month, the Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services opened the Veterans Memorial Cemetery at Marana. This facility meets a tremendous need for our region. Over 100,000 veterans live in Southern Arizona. Before this cemetery opened, their closest cemetery was in Sierra Vista. For families wishing to visit the graves of loved ones, traveling that distance can be incredibly challenging. Marana is proud to support veterans and their families in this way. We are also a Purple Heart Town that is committed to welcoming veterans and honoring their service. This new cemetery is a key part of that commitment.
As part of Marana’s focus on community, we like to find ways to bring people together. Our Signature Events attract folks from across Marana to gather as we celebrate major holidays. Our Signature Events include the Star Spangled Spectacular, Founders’ Day, the Cotton Festival, and the Holiday Festival and Christmas Tree Lighting.
What is especially encouraging is the growing number of people we see every year at these events. In 2014, we had 5,000 people at the Star Spangled Spectacular. In 2015? Over 10,000! Even our Holiday Festival and Christmas Tree Lighting has doubled in size, to well over 5000 people.
This kind of growth speaks to the engagement of our residents. Events like these create family memories that last a lifetime.
Across Marana, we are seeing collaborations among our schools, the private sector, and local government. Due to these strong relationships, the National Civic League has honored Marana as a finalist for the All-America City Award for the second year in a row. This year, only 20 communities in the nation received this distinction. This recognition shows Marana’s commitment to helping the whole community grow together as we demonstrate what it really means to be an All-America City.
Finally, the Marana Police Department serves as one of the most visible reminders of the emphasis we place on community. Their mission boldly promises “unparalleled service and unwavering protection” in everything they do. Our officers strive to exhibit the heart and the mindset of a public servant. I recently heard our Chief give a presentation about Marana’s policing philosophy, which places a heavy emphasis on applying the law with compassion. Their approach encourages officers to be tough on crime, while at the same time treating all people with dignity and respect.
This approach has not gone unnoticed. Every week we receive compliments and expressions of gratitude from the community recognizing the attitudes and helpfulness of our police personnel. Their combined efforts are proving effective, as crime rates in Marana dropped again for a fifth straight year. At a time when many communities are struggling in their police relations, community support for Marana’s Police is at an all-time high.
As residents across Marana are working hard to make our community strong, that work sometimes overlaps with great fun. That is why we have made Recreation the third focus area of the strategic plan. Marana has wonderful recreational opportunities. A few minutes ago, I mentioned our four Signature Events, but that’s not all we are up to. Throughout the year, at our various parks, we host Movies and Music in Marana. At these gatherings, families can enjoy a free movie or concert. Just last month, a happy crowd of girls and boys dressed up in their favorite costumes to watch Cinderella. Last weekend, we hosted Camping Under the Stars at one of our parks.
In addition to these annual activities, we are also working to expand our recreational offerings. Some of you may have noticed a large sign along Tangerine Road announcing a new park. We have reached out to the neighbors who live near this park to solicit their input on what kinds of facilities they desire. Once we have determined what best meets the community’s needs, we will begin construction.
Marana is also home to a dedicated hiking and biking community, and we are always searching for new ways to serve them. Our Parks and Recreation Department maintains almost 30 miles of backcountry trails in the Tortolita Mountains. These are some of the finest hiking paths in the whole region. The Wild Burro Trail in particular has received national recognition for its incredible beauty. To add to these trails, the Town is working with the Central Arizona Project to open up a hiking and biking path along the CAP canal.
Cyclists in Marana also have an exciting new partnership to look forward to. This year, we are working with Perimeter Cycling to host a Marana segment of El Tour de Tucson. El Tour is one of the largest long distance cycling events in the country. Marana’s segment will be 28 miles from start to finish.
With Recreation as a key element of our Strategic Plan, one thing that makes Marana special is the strong connection between our sense of fun and our cultural roots. That strong connection is the reason Heritage is the fourth focus area of the Strategic Plan. Marana started out as a farming and ranching community. The acres of cotton, wheat, and alfalfa demonstrate both our heritage and the reality that agriculture still represents a crucial aspect of our lives. Ranchers, cattle, and horses are not bygone symbols of yesteryear.
Our partnership with the Marana Heritage Conservancy extends across many events throughout the year, from Founders’ Day in the spring to Cotton Festival in the fall. This partnership allows Marana to preserve and promote our shared history and culture.
Our commitment to Heritage enables us to celebrate history from centuries ago. You, our residents and business owners, come from many different backgrounds. The Heritage goals in the strategic plan celebrate all of you.
Commerce, Community, Recreation, and Heritage. These are four of the focus areas in the Town of Marana’s strategic plan. Connecting each of these pillars is a spirit of innovation, the last focus area of the strategic plan. The Town is always exploring new ideas, new ways to make Marana great, not just tomorrow, not just next week, but over the next decade and beyond. We are searching for inspiration from communities across the country. We are constantly reflecting on our past accomplishments, and always asking, “How can we keep improving?” “How can we do better?”
In the next year, we will have a number of opportunities to implement these ideas. Throughout the year, we will be planning our new police facility. Marana Police will have a dedicated, stand-alone headquarters. This commitment, to public safety, is a crucial development for Marana’s long-term growth.
Marana’s new police headquarters will strengthen our department and create value for the larger community. It will afford training opportunities for officers, including a firing range, as well as facilities for K-9 units. Overall, this addition to the Marana Municipal Complex will allow the Marana Police Department to operate more efficiently and effectively as it serves our residents.
We are also reflecting on how Marana’s Development Services Center can improve to meet the needs of our customers. This includes process improvements and updates to the Town’s Land Development Code. We believe that as the Town grows, we must continually find ways to keep improving. The Town is learning from the private sector. We are reducing processing time, simplifying how you pay, and hopefully getting your operation up and running as quickly as possible. Our business… is to make your business… successful.
Innovation in Marana is what drives the progress of every other focus area. Whether we are looking for ways to improve business procedures or ideas for a new police facility, we always believe in a spirit of creativity and determination. This innovation is what sets Marana apart and makes us an ideal community for our residents.
Marana will be celebrating its 40th anniversary next year. In early 1977, a small group of neighbors wanted to establish a Town. Four decades later, we can see, all around us, the result of that vision. However, it is impossible to have a strong vision without strong leadership. The Marana Town Council is providing that leadership every day, and I want to thank Vice Mayor Jon Post and Council Members Dave Bowen, Patti Comerford, Herb Kai, Carol McGorray, and Roxanne Ziegler for their commitment to Marana. I also want to thank our Town staff, who work so hard for our community. Would the Council and staff please stand and be recognized?
The five pillars of our strategic plan are not just words on the page. They are what have made Marana so successful today. Commerce, community, recreation, heritage, and innovation are what drove the Town in its earliest days. They are the ideals that continue to inspire us today. I am proud to belong to this community and to stand before you to share the State of Your Town. The State of Your Town is Prosperous, Distinguished, Fun, Rooted, and Innovative. It is you, and it is us, and we are strong. That strength is evident all around us. Take a look at just a few examples of the folks who make Marana such an incredible Town.
We are Marana. God bless the Town of Marana and God bless you, each and every one. Thank you for coming.