Mayor: Economic development is priority

Florence Mayor Bobby Irons speaks to citizens Nov. 8.

by Josh Skaggs News Editor

The Florence-Lauderdale Coliseum was full of citizens and civic leaders listening to Florence Mayor Bobby Irons’ state of the city address last Tuesday night.

Irons, who is not running for reelection next year, addressed the city for one of his last times as mayor. Irons spent much of his time discussing the city’s growth and what the city has to look forward to.

“Our No. 1 priority for the past seven years, and for the future, is economic development and the creation of new jobs,” Irons said.

Irons also addressed topics related to improving schools, the city’s financial state, sales tax revenue, solid waste disposal and other issues related to the city’s day-to-day operations.

Irons’ main goals for the year are creating new jobs, recruiting new businesses, resolving the landfill issue, managing finances well, obtaining a regional medical center, promoting the green initiative, working with local schools and improving highway infrastructure.

“(The) Tourism and Parks and Recreation departments have worked hard to promote the Shoals,” Irons said.

According to Irons, the city gained three new hotels, which added 258 new rooms to the city’s lodging options. The city’s occupancy is up 10 percent and tax revenue is up on lodging.

In addition to new hotels, Irons mentioned the retail growth in the city. The city has seen the addition of Burkes, Ross, JoAnn’s Fabrics, Bed Bath and Beyond, Five Guys, EyeMart and will soon see Publix. The city now has 13 national retailers in the community, Irons said.

In addition to retail and business growth, Irons discussed the growth that UNA is experiencing with the addition of many new buildings on campus.

“UNA is a strong partner in our community,” Irons said. “The economic impact is great to our area.

“(The new buildings are) a tremendous thing for our university in this community.”

Florence has been spared from the economic downturn the nation has been experiencing, Irons said.

“The city is in a sound financial position,” Irons said. “Some of our sister cities have not been as fortunate … as they have encountered huge deficits.”

Irons attributes the city’s growth and good business practices to good management practices from his department heads. The good management practices are the reason the city is staying afloat in the tough national economic times, he said.

“I am very proud of our team’s accomplishments during this tough time,” Irons said. “We are hurting somewhat because of the state of our nation.”

The City of Florence must place a high priority on quality of life aspects, he said. The city must continue to work closely with its schools and healthcare providers, Irons said.