CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Cleveland's spirit and economic positioning have made it a natural leader among communities in Tennessee and the Southeast, Mayor Tom Rowland said Thursday.
In Rowland's 20th annual "State of the City" address to the Kiwanis Club of Cleveland, he reviewed highlights of events and trends he said contributed to the city's financial well-being and quality of life.
"The good news is, of the 10 metro areas in Tennessee, Cleveland leads the way as the fastest growing," the mayor said. "In its efforts toward economic recovery, Cleveland's metro area is the fifth-largest in construction in the Southeastern United States."
The commitment to develop Spring Branch Industrial Park, which will be located on 330 acres near exit 20 on Interstate 75, was a major achievement in 2012, Rowland said.
Economic officials expect the industrial park project -- a joint venture among Cleveland, Cleveland Utilities and Bradley County -- will be ideally suited for satellite businesses and vendors for companies such as nearby Volkswagen and Wacker Chemical.
As infrastructural work begins this year at the industrial park site, the surrounding transportation network is receiving a makeover to support the expected commercial growth, including improvements to exit 20 and interstate connections between APD-40 and the park site.
The interstate connector, dubbed Cherokee Gateway South, is near completion, said Gary Farlow, CEO and president of the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce. A Tennessee Department of Transportation project to add another bridge to exit 20 is expected to be complete by 2015.
The mayor also praised efforts to expand the city's greenway, which stretches nearly four miles from its Willow Street origin to Mohawk Drive. More expansions are to come, providing residents with more access to healthy lifestyle benefits, he said.
In a recent meeting of city officials, Cleveland Urban Forester Dan Hartman said plans were to create interconnecting branches off the greenway. The next project likely will involve connections between Tinsley Park and Ocoee Crossing, officials said.
Rowland also stressed reductions in crime within the city, stating that no murders were committed in Cleveland in 2012 and none so far in 2013. Aggravated assault numbers were down 24 percent, he said.
In response to questions about proposed legislation that would allow educators to carry firearms at schools, Rowland said campus security begins with the buildings.
"Architecturally, I think, is where it's got to start," said Rowland, adding that limiting access to school facilities is the "bottom line" in curbing the problem of would-be shooters.