Business leaders and government officials met once again Tuesday as the I-94 West Chamber of Commerce brought both sides together for its annual State of the Cities event.
If the 2011 message last year at was, "We've hit rock bottom," the collective 2012 message was, "We hope the turnaround is as fast as the crash was."
St. Michael Mayor Jerry Zachman welcomed the contingent, which included representatives from neighbors such as Hanover, Albertville, Dayton, Otsego and Rogers to the city center. Businesses from most, if not all, of those communities were represented by the about 100 or so people in attendance.
"I think I speak for everyone when I say that it's been a tough couple of years," said outgoing St. Michael City Administrator Bob Deurs during his update on the city. "But, we feel like there's some positive things happening, and that this is going to kind of be the year things start moving upward."
Derus cracked the joke of the event when he pointed to housing starts, which bottomed out at below 10 in 2010 in St. Michael, but have risen the last two years.
"It's a little early, but I'll call it a trend," he said with a smile.
In Albertville's update, City Administrator Larry Kruse and Councilman Larry Sorenson took turns updating the crowd on some bigger city projects, including the Interstate 94 interchange redevelopment, which should break ground this summer.
"We're looking at letting out bids this month, which is a huge step," Kruse said. "When I was in Brainerd/Baxter, I remember them telling me it took about 40 years to get the Highway 210 bypass completed, and I thought that was crazy. This didn't take quite that long, but I know what they meant now."
Albertville will be releasing more info on the interchange project in the next few weeks, including next Monday's council meeting.
Surrounding Communities Look to Spark Growth
Rogers Steve Stahmer brought forth his annual report, announcing the completion of that community's merger with Hassan Township. That boosted Rogers' population above the 11,000 mark on Jan. 1, 2012.
"It's really gone rather seamlessly," he said. "We will continue to work with residents on anything that comes up."
Hanover Mayor Martin Waters thanked Derus, who will retire in July, for his years of service and cooperation.
"I think there's a reason we're here today, and that's because this is the house that Bob built," Waters said with a smile. "Bob has been great at getting communities to work together and collaborate, and I know that's paid off for Hanover in many ways."
New Otsego administrator Lori Johnson updated the crowd on road projects that will connect eastern and western areas of that community, which shares borders with both St. Michael and Albertville.
Rogers, St. Michael and Otsego will work together on projects like a new intersection at Hennepin County 144 and Highway 101 (St. Michael will be consulted, but not have any input or funding in the project). Albertville, meanwhile, will be impacted by some road extension projects, joining eastern Otsego to Wright County areas.
"I think in order for us to continue to do well, we all have to work together on various projects," Johnson said. "I really look forward to doing that as we look to spark some new growth in our communities."