Photo: In addition to reflecting on 2015, Mayor Beth Van Duyne expresses her hopes for Irving’s future. /Photo by Nick Kammerer
More than 550 dinner guests gathered on the fourth floor of the Irving Convention Center for the highly anticipated 2016 State of the City event on Tuesday, Jan. 26. Mayor Beth Van Duyne, the keynote speaker, recognized Irving’s many achievements in 2015 and discussed the city’s plans for the future.
“Irving was propelled into the national spotlight fairly regularly in 2015,” Van Duyne said. “Mother nature had a hand in that with the extensive flooding in May and more this past fall with an occasional tornado or two. Earthquakes also continued to rumble through the city.
“Cultural differences also took center stage, but we responded by demonstrating leadership and resolve while forming new collaborations,” she said.
Attendees enjoyed a delicious dinner served by the Convention Center’s staff as Van Duyne highlighted Irving’s continuing economic growth, successes of the Irving Independent School District and the city’s continued reduction in crime due to the Irving Police Department’s relentless service to the community.
“I want to focus on three major areas: new economic activity, representing new businesses, new developments, new jobs and new housing; new infrastructure in the area of education, transportation and community services; and new horizons and opportunities,” she said.
After recognizing elected officials and city employees in attendance, Van Duyne discussed current economic development.
“I believe that Irving has continued to be the economic epicenter of the North Texas region. There are more than 50 Fortune 500 companies in Irving. We [also] have six local small businesses that were recognized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,” Van Duyne said. “Nearly 4,600 new jobs were created in Irving this past year. We have officially surpassed the peak level of jobs that existed before the recession. Unemployment in Irving is now down to 3.7 percent.
“Our diversified economy, low cost of living, low tax rates and high quality of life are hitting home for many people seeking new opportunities,” she said.
Van Duyne highlighted a few of the city’s newest businesses and attractions.
“The Texas Musicians Museum, which was a labor of love for so many in this community, opened its doors in South Irving,” she said. “The $111,000,000 Center for Proton Therapy, which is the first cancer center in North Texas that uses state-of-the-art proton beam therapy, opened this fall and began treating patients.”
Van Duyne also discussed the progress of the long-awaited Texas Music Factory.
“The Irving Music Factory project is progressing after some carefully navigated negotiations,” Van Duyne said. “For the first time in this project’s history, the council unanimously supported an agreement that would gain revenue share for the city and provide a date for the developer to finalize their financing.
“If financing is not obtained by the end of February, the developer will abandon the rest of the property, and the city can move forward without concerns of lawsuits or other delays. If the developer is successful, construction should be completed in early 2017,” she said.
Additionally, Van Duyne shared her excitement about the opening of Las Colinas’ Whole Foods development, which is set to open in June of 2016. She spoke about the future plans for the former Texas Stadium site.
“The completion of the Dart Orange Line, into which we have invested $1 billion, continues to yield interest, and we are working to develop land in and around the former [Texas] Stadium,” she said. “This is 400 acres of prime, developable land that’s one of the most valuable, and highly visible, commuter gateways in the Metroplex.”
Finally, Van Duyne highlighted the successes of Irving’s award winning schools and Police Department, citing Irving ISD’s recent title of 2015 Advanced Placement District of the Year for midsized school districts.
“Another key deciding factor in moving to the city for both businesses and families is public safety,” she said. “I am honored to report that Irving was named in the Top 10 Safest Cities in the United States. This year, we’ve witnessed incidents that include police officers being harshly criticized for doing their jobs, or being second-guessed and undermined by leaders who should know better.”
The event was hosted by the Greater Irving – Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce.