Redding, Calif. – Four years ago, when he gave his first State of the City address, Redding Mayor Rick Bosetti was forced to paint a rather grim picture: unemployment was at 14.6 percent, housing starts were reduced to a trickle and sales tax revenue was at Depression-era levels.
Returning to the Civic Auditorium on Tuesday, Bosetti offered a significantly brighter scenario. Unemployment is in the 10 percent area and home building has picked up—thanks in large part to a development fee waiver that saved builders $12,000 per house. The construction boom in turn added to city coffers by sparking retail spending and increased property values.
“Not too long ago, the future looked pretty bleak. But those clouds are now clearing. The state of our city is strong. Redding is on the rise,” Bosetti said, underscoring the theme of the 26th annual State of the City presentation.
Redding’s ascension is the result of the city pulling itself up by its own bootstraps, Bosetti said. That self-sustainability mode is the result of California slowly working out of its financial morass by heaping more and more obligations onto local governments.
Redevelopment financing was the first to go in 2012, forcing the city to return $25 million to the state—money that would have been spent on sewer lines, sidewalks and other development-friendly infrastructure. Job-creating Enterprise Zones went away in 2013.
“The message is clear: cities like Redding must take ownership of their future. We cannot depend on state or federal governments. We must rise on our own, and, I’m proud to say, we’ve been doing that, even during the recession.”
Signs of that resurgence can be found on Cypress Avenue with a new Redding Subaru dealership and significant improvements to Lithia Chevrolet. At the intersection of Oasis Road and Twin View Boulevard, critical steps have been completed for construction of a Costco store to anchor a new shopping center. If all goes well, Bosetti said the store will open in 2015.
Deviating from his prepared remarks, Bosetti said he received a call Tuesday morning from a major retailer expressing interest in some 150,000 square feet of space planned for the Costco center.
Other promising developments include an expansion of Win-River Casino and its new 84-room hotel, as well as Dick’s Sporting Goods on Hilltop Drive, which is expected to open in time for Christmas shopping.
Downtown Redding is looking brighter as well, Bosetti said. The shuttered Greyhound bus depot is gone and soon to be replaced with a contemporary mixed-used building and the popular Cheesecakes Unlimited has returned to downtown and set up shop inside the Pine Street School.
South City Park has benefitted from improvements to Tiger Field where the Colt .45s play, said Bosetti, a former professional baseball player who coaches the summer-league team of college-aged players.
Bosetti praised Viva Downtown for revamping the venerable MarketFest and moving it to the Market Street Promenade, a shift made necessary when Library Park was closed to accommodate renovations to the Lorenz Hotel. The new Market Street Faire was a hit and will return to its new venue next summer.
A return to prosperity requires significant job growth, and improving air service to Redding is key to attracting industries to the empty Stillwater Business Park and elsewhere in the city.
Redding is being proactive in that regard too, Bosetti said. “We’re not sitting back like a wallflower at a dance, hoping for a carrier to choose us. Our city has taken the initiative, with the Economic Development Corporation and the Greater Redding Chamber of Commerce, to go out and find a partner.”
A combination air travel bank and revenue guarantee program has more than $1 million pledged to it with the goal of attracting an airline to provide service to Los Angeles.
Redding’s future is not without significant challenges, Bosetti said, and perhaps the biggest hurdle is the city’s required contributions to its employees’ pensions—an obligation that will increase by $4 million in the current fiscal year and another $1.1 million in the year after.
City workers represented by the Service Employees International Union have agreed to continue a furlough program that closes city offices two Fridays a month, reducing their pay by 10 percent and saving the city $1.1 million a year.
Bosetti said the city will continue to work with its employee bargaining units to find ways to reduce the hefty retirement costs.
“As you can see, we’ve continued to make progress in the past year, with a little bit of help from the improving economy. But most of our success is our own doing: Being realistic, watching our finances and taking control of our future.
The clouds may be parting, but it’s no time to be complacent. We must, and will, continue to make the decisions that are best for this city.”
Jon Lewis is a freelance writer living in Redding. He has more than 30 years experience writing for newspapers and magazines. Contact him at email@example.com.