Walt Disney, Shirley MacLaine and ancient Chinese proverbs were quoted at Thursday's State of the City address as Mayor Larry Hansen told the crowd that although times are tough, Lodi's glass is not half-empty.
Hansen cited public and private investments around the city that have created jobs, spurred spending and created international interest in the city. Lodi's wine industry, future investments and the San Joaquin County Enterprise Zone were all mentioned by Hansen as reasons for his optimistic outlook.
He told a personal story from his time as a police officer in 1973, when he was handcuffed by three men on speed who said they were going to kill him. One put a gun to the back of Hansen's head, and he just shut his eyes and waited to be shot.
"I accepted it was over," he said.
When a fellow officer drove to the captor's house, the men brought him to his feet and told him to get rid of the officer. It was at that point, Hansen said, that he began to think about his survival.
"That's a metaphor for what we need to do," Hansen said. "Let's get on our feet, let's think in a positive way, let's figure out how to survive this recession."
Hansen divided his speech up into two sections: private and public investment. Below are some highlights of the speech:
San Joaquin County Enterprise Zone: There are 42 enterprise zones in California. The San Joaquin County Enterprise Zone offers tax incentives and credits for businesses.
State tax credits in the San Joaquin Enterprise Zone include a hiring tax credit that offers businesses $37,400 or more per new employee hired over a five-year period. There is also a net interest deduction for lenders that could result in a 3 or 4 percent increase in future returns on investments.
Many more incentives, including a $20,000 business expense deduction for tangible personal property, are available as well.
A workshop for more details on the Lodi Enterprise Zone will be held Tuesday from 5:15 to 6:30 p.m. at Oakridge Winery, located at 6100 E. Highway 12.
Lodi Memorial Hospital: Hansen lauded Lodi Memorial Hospital's recent $220 million expansion as an investment in the city's future. The brand-new, 132,000-square-foot south wing and central power plant created 81 new jobs and will meet the community's needs beyond 2030.
The expansion boosts the hospital's total workforce to 1,290 employees. It's projected payroll for 2010 is $90 million.
Hansen said it was a move that would serve the future needs of Lodi.
Wine industry: The mayor devoted a substantial portion of his speaking time to Lodi's expanding wine-tasting industry.
There will be five wineries in Downtown Lodi when Estate Crush, a custom winemaking business at the corner of Lockeford and Sacramento streets, opens its tasting room in 2010.
Estate Crush received high praise from Hansen.
"Owners Nick (Sikeotis), Bob (Colarossi) and Ali (Liebich) are all people who have invested in Lodi's future," he said.
Estate Crush has more than 45 clients, and produces more than 80 lots of wine. Hansen said by this time next year, it could have 100 different wines.
Mark Chandler, executive director of the Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrape Commission, said the wine industry's glass is more than half-full, as he gestured to his nearly full glass of wine at the podium.
"There is lots going on in the wine industry," he said.
Chandler said Lodi wines pump $5 billion annually into the economy. He said nearly 15,000 full-time jobs and $493 million in wages can be attributed to Lodi's wine industry. There are also 2 million wine-related visits and $325 million in taxes paid by Lodi's biggest industry.
He showed the audience an advertisement running in Trade and Consumer media targeted at wine drinkers. The ad encourages people to discover great wines made by real people. It features the phrase "The time is right for Lodi wine," set against a placid vineyard background.
Chandler said the downturn is making consumers reconsider their wine purchases, and that Lodi can benefit from this. Lodi is benefiting from the transition of being a grape community to wine community as well.
He said more wineries investing in tasting rooms and being able to host events, like Harney Lane Winery, St. Jorge Winery and Viaggio Winery, are turning Lodi into a great venue for weddings.
"That is a tremendous economic driver," he said. "People come and rent your facility, they have a caterer, they buy Lodi wines and they stay overnight here."
Kettleman Lane improvements: Bella Terra Plaza, which recently celebrated its grand opening after a $1.5 million renovation, was another reason for Hansen's optimistic outlook. He said the plaza at 1110 W. Kettleman Lane, which features retail space, restaurants, salons and offices, is beautiful and a key component of obtaining sales tax revenue for the city.
"It's a fun place to be and getting a lot of attention," Hansen said. "They have done a first-class job in that renovation."
Hansen also said Kohl's coming to Lodi is another reason to view the city's future favorably.
"They brought along 125 new jobs and a new sales tax generator," he said.
Lodi continues marketing to China: At the state of the city address, it was announced that an agreement is near that would open a Lodi products office in Shanghai. It would be in the same building as the U.S. Department of Commerce and U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"People from China are going to be able to go in there and learn about Lodi, and learn about the wines," Hansen said.
In mid-December, high-ranking members from China's import and distribution businesses are coming to town, including China's largest wine distributor. It was also announced that members of China's tourism business are looking to develop a Lodi package.
Hansen also recognized Henry Yin, founder and president of USA-China-Link, who cut a deal to send 40,000 bottles of Lodi wine to China.
Lodi Energy Center: The city is working to develop a 280-megawatt natural gas power plant.
The construction of the plant will begins in 2010 and continue for two years. It will bring 150 to 200 jobs to the area. The Northern California Power Agency is going through the approval process to construct the plant, which will cost $432 million.
The plant will have at least 14 agencies splitting the cost to build it and share the power.
Because the plant will be next to White Slough wastewater treatment plant, the city will receive $1 million a year in rent and the purchase of water from the wastewater plant.
Also, the city will be the point-of-sale for the $140 million power island purchased from Siemens Energy, a Germany-based company. It will receive a $1.4 million one-time payment in sales tax.
"It will be the first plant in the country of its kind that will have the ability to quickly start up and shut down. It's going to save energy, and it will be a clean, renewable energy," Hansen said.
Grape Bowl: The city will begin installing artificial turf at the Grape Bowl, possibly in early 2010. This will allow the city to have year-round field use. Hansen said it will be more attractive for concerts, and triple the usage in the first year.
General Plan: Hansen said the city has invested time and resources to draft the General Plan, which will be the city's planning bible for the next 20 years.
"We focused to make sure that lands were appropriately zoned for economic development, for job creation, for enticing commercial retails, for infrastructure, to make sure it is readily available and affordable, and to make sure that our city is designed in a way that really improves the quality of life for those who live here," he said.
DeBenedetti Park: The city will finish the storm drainage and three soccer fields at DeBenedetti Park.
"If you are tired of looking at the dust out there, as I am, we finally came up with some funding to at least get started on DeBenedetti Park," he said.
This winter and into the spring, the city will plant hydroseed in the drainage basin to help stabilize the bank and also help control dust. The city then has plans to plant grass for 15 acres of sports turf in the summer of 2010, with the fields being ready for play by spring 2011.
Tree Lodi has agreed to raise $10,000 to plant 200 trees by letting people buy a tree in their name.
"You can drive by the park and show your kids that's your tree. It's a great example of what Lodi is about. The city is trying to come up with the funds to make this a doable park, and this group jumped in and said we'll plant the trees. So say good-bye to the dust bowl. It will be going away soon," Hansen said.
Senior housing: The city is planning to start building its first large-scale affordable senior housing project in the next year to year-and-a-half, Hansen said.
Approximately 80 units for seniors will be built by Hayward-based nonprofit developer Eden Housing. The organization has done similar projects in Manteca and Tracy.
The project also includes plans to develop Roget Park, which will be the first planned passive park.
East Lodi Avenue construction: The city will begin a $2 million project to reconstruct East Lodi Avenue. The project will include adding new street landscaping and streetlights, and tearing up railroad tracks that had previously been paved over.
"It's going to generate additional commerce, it's going to be pedestrian friendly, and it's a great example of being able to capture stimulus dollars. … It will be a very nice gateway through Lodi," he said.
Fleet service center: In May, the city opened a new $3.4 million-vehicle maintenance shop. The city is able to repair and perform scheduled maintenance on all of its 430 vehicles, including buses and fire trucks.
"They can do maintenance to all city vehicles under one roof. … It is much more energy efficient," Hansen said.
Lodi Lake Boathouse: Hansen mentioned a partnership between the city and the community to provide a new boathouse at Lodi Lake. Meehleis Modular Buildings and the Lodi Centennial Group donated the $300,000 boathouse to the city, and the city received state funding to improve the parking lot at the park.
"This provides amazing access for those who are disabled to get in and out of the kayaks," he said.
Enterprise funds: Hansen said the city has faced many tough decisions when it comes to the water wastewater and electric utilities. He said all the utilities are on their way to being self-sufficient and financially stable.
"Typically, what happens is nobody wants to raise rates, so they put it off, put it off, put it off, and the bite of the apple gets bigger and bigger. Those are very tough decisions for councils to have to make. We have all our enterprise funds on a good path for financial stability."
Water fund: It will be important that the city begins its first phase of the water treatment plant, which will take care of the city's water needs through 2025, Hansen said. The water will reduce the draw on our groundwater table from 17,000 acre feet to 11,000, he said.
With the water fund, he said it is also important that the city has found a way to clean up PCE/TCE contamination. The largest plume was in Downtown Lodi.
"Four or five years ago when I was mayor, my main focus was PCE/TCE. Now, we've removed that black cloud. We are in the clean-up phase. We have already removed 6,000 pounds of that chemical out of the ground," Hansen said.
Wastewater fund: He said it is important the city has completed the state-mandated upgrades that have taken the plant's capacity from 6.2 million gallons a day to 8.5 million gallons a day. He said the plant will meet the city's needs beyond 2025.
He said it was a difficult decision to raise rates by a staggered 73 percent, but it was necessary because of unfunded state mandates.
Electric Utility: During the past two years, Hansen said, the Electric Utility's rating has increased three times.
"It is considered by Wall Street to be a stable, conservatively managed utility," he said.
He also said it is important that the city has no variable rate or high-risk financing, and it has been able to reduce its exposure to market fluctuations.