Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Giving a speech using the theme of iPhone Apps, Duluth Mayor Nancy Harris gives the annual State of the City address at the Civitan Club luncheon on Tuesday.
DULUTH -- Delivering her State of the City address just hours before Barack Obama's State of the Union, Nancy Harris kidded that the president stole here agenda: jobs.
Of course, the theme is universal in a nation struggling to regain its strength and financial footing after a Recession caused unemployment and foreclosures to skyrocket.
But Duluth, Harris said, has an app for that.
Using a technology theme, Harris walked through the job creation strategy for one of Gwinnett's biggest cities, outlining revitalization and infrastructure projects, budgeting tightening and quality of life initiatives.
Compared to booming years of the past, 2011 posed some difficulty for the City Council, Harris said, talking about the average home price of $174,000, down 30 percent from five years ago.
The city only issued three commercial building permits and a handful of residential ones in 2011, and a service delivery disagreement with Gwinnett left the city with about $1 million less in revenues because police officers could not use radar.
"Your city is much more vulnerable when you don't have a strict traffic program," Harris said, talking about the double negative of missing out on enforcement.
"we are in a great talking mode right now. We are working on a plan that is going to be much better," Harris said of negotiations with the county that began again with the election of Charlotte Nash last year. "We're settling this as a team."
Harris shared a lot of optimism, including expecting keeping the millage rate the same and drawing more businesses to the community.
In fact, the city was able to cut an anticipated use of its rainy day fund form $1 million to less than $100,000 in 2011.
"Yes, financially, we are in good shape," Harris said. "This is a brand new year with new opportunities."
She talked about entrepreneurial programs and other business initiatives, such as the Korean task force, a group that works with the Asian business owners and helps with things like interpreting.
City officials are working to annex down Pleasant Hill Road and bring a hotel to the city, she said. A median project on Buford Highway is also slated to begin.
"We want to make sure Duluth is a very desirable place to build," Harris said. "We have really tried to make Duluth a destination."
Jerry Robb, president of the Duluth Civitan Club, which hosted the event, said he was thrilled with the crowd of more than 200 at the Gwinnett Center. And Harris's speech showed her genuine love for the city, he added.
"I am more hopeful," he said of the still lackluster local economy. "I can't say we're through it, but things are looking up. ... It was fun."