The national economy is on an upswing, and the city of Opelika is taking part in the ride.
Things are looking up, and the best is still ahead, said Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller in his annual “State of the City” address Friday.
Fuller and others in the Opelika business community have every reason to be optimistic.
Citing a progressive list of achievements in growth and expansion during 2017, Fuller spoke to a full house in the Southern Room at Southern Union State Community College as chamber of commerce members, government representatives, city leaders and guests applauded in approval.
Much of the positive vibe-sharing would be expected at any chamber-of-commerce type event such as this, but Opelika does indeed seem on the move and not satisfied with resting on recent successes such as the growth of Tiger Town and the revitalization efforts of downtown.
Looking to connect those two centers of retail and commercial service is among the projects expected to be completed in the year ahead, Fuller pointed out, in reference to roadwork on Martin Luther King Boulevard and Frederick Road.
He also pointed to several industrial expansions such as with Baxter and Car Tech, and to the growth of the city’s largest employer, East Alabama Medical Center, which is working to open a new cancer treatment center.
Home sales have continued a steady rise since 2012, as well as home values, while on the flip side, Fuller said the city has demolished 56 eyesore-properties in the past five years and 27 more are in the process of demolition or repair.
Still, there remain goals requiring a bit of work before the city can achieve the success sought.
A better traffic flow into and around the Sportsplex remains high on the list.
Also, OPS ONE, Opelika’s own network provider and the catalyst behind Fuller referring to Opelika as “Alabama’s first gig city,” still is not operating in the black, a concern to critics who question the city’s involvement in such a venture.
OPS ONE had hoped to be breaking even by this year, “but it probably will be a couple more years,” Fuller said. “But we’re doing this for you all. We’re not worried about Wall Street. We’re more concerned with Main Street.”
Overall, Opelika’s economic health is much better from difficult times in the past that Fuller recalled from early in his work and political career, thinking back to the dark days when the city had many businesses downtown to shutter their doors and “we lost our walk-in picture show,” or theater.
Now, however, “I have had the honor and pleasure of representing this city around the world” in efforts to recruit new industry and jobs to the area, to which the city has had much success, he said.
2017 was a good year of progress for the city of Opelika.
Here’s to 2018 going further.