COLUMBIA — City Manager Mike Matthes cited potential growth and increased economic activity in his State of the City address, but said the city still faces challenges.
Matthes touched on some signs of an improving economy, including an increase in sales taxes and an increase in employment in the retail and service sectors. However, because of Columbia's large student population, the recession and a decrease in better paying jobs in the area, the city's poverty rate is significantly higher than rates of the country and the rest of the state, the message said.
Although transportation funding continues to be a challenge, money has been added to the current budget for road improvements, Matthes said. Also, with Columbia City Council’s continued support, the creation of a “sustainable” airport is in the works.
Matthes said he recognizes the challenges ahead and insists that the city’s employees are ready to face it.
Highlights from the address include:
- Sales taxes have continued to increase, meaning transaction numbers and values are continuing to rise. This is a good sign for the economy, Matthes said.
- The parking spaces in the Fifth and Walnut parking garage are fully leased, and the retail spaces in the structure are continuing to be leased.
- Columbia's largest and fastest-growing age demographic is the young adult population. Twenty percent of the city's population is made up of people ages 20-24, and 40 percent is made up of people ages 15-29. According to Matthes, this signifies the city's growth potential.
- Columbia’s 23 percent poverty rate is higher than rates of Missouri and the U.S., which are 14 percent and 15 percent respectively.
- The city added $585,000 in the current budget for paving roads. Ward-based town hall meetings were held to prioritize streets for resurfacing.
- Fire Station 10 will not be built after bond revenues did not meet estimates in the last ballot. However, Matthes said this is not necessarily negative, as the city currently cannot afford to staff another fire station.
Matthes addressed Mayor Bob McDavid and city council members in the annual State of the City message May 25.
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