Unemployment is at one of the lowest levels in years. Job growth is good and moving upward. Economic development is up year over year. And the growth of our city is strong and vibrant.
A lot has been accomplished in the last year. Midtown Village, now Midtown 360 has been purchased and is being rebuilt and finished. The University Mall is transforming into a new mixed use University Place with a $500 Million investment by the Woodbury Corporation. Nordstroms is coming back to Orem with their Nordstroms Rack store. And many new restaurants, businesses, and apartments are being built all over the city.
While in the past year our city revenues are up, we have tried to be frugal in the use of city funds. To that point, we refinanced existing bonds at a lower interest rate, saving enough money to rebuild west Center Street at no additional cost to the city.
Orem is filled with new construction and business and residential developments from one end of the city to the other. A lot is happening in Orem these days.
Orem has been recognized in recent years as one of the best cities to raise a family, to do business, for job growth, for economic vitality, for successful aging, for short commute times, for the least amount of crime, for the best educated, for being the most religious, and as one of the best cities in the nation for singles.
This past year I was proud that Orem was finally able to give its employees a raise, the first time in many years. Orem has divided its public safety department into separate police and fire departments, and hired a new police chief. New police cars and new fire equipment that were badly needed were purchased last year. And this past year we have sought out and had greater citizen involvement on many of our committees and commissions.
As I look forward to this next year, while good things have been happening, we still have many challenges we need to meet.
First, our city infrastructure is aging and has been on maintenance mode for many years. We need and are working to plan for the future, to put in place a program whereby we can update and improve our basic water, sewer, storm water, roads, and other public utility resources for the future years to come.
Second, while Orem is doing ok with regards to employment, the demand for more and better paying jobs is high and the work to keep and add companies in Orem is a constant effort. Orem is one of the best cities in Utah Valley for incubating and starting new companies. It is now our challenge to keep these companies here in the our city once they take off and grow up. To this point, I have begun working with Utah Valley University and local building owners to put together a new combined incubator program for helping developing businesses. Likewise, new proposed technology buildings will help provide the locations for growing businesses to stay in Orem.
Third, the city-owned fiber network, UTOPIA, continues to struggle and takes a a financial toll on our resources. Fiber is and will be important for future communications. I believe that many citizens would sign up for it if they could get it. I believe it could be an asset instead of a liability. But it is a large challenge to bring needed change to the business structure of a organization comprised of 11 cities. To this point, I and the City Council continue to actively work on ways to deal with this problem.
I love Orem and the strong families and wonderful people who live and play and work here. We have great strengths and abilities to work together and help each other. I look forward to moving forward. I am committed to making Orem even a stronger and more wonderful place to live.