Business growth, sound planning keep Westlake stable in tough economy
Through diligent planning, dedicated employees and community reinvestment, Westlake has maintained its status over the past year as a premier destination for residents and businesses alike, Mayor Dennis Clough told members of the West Shore Chamber of Commerce on March 12. In his 28th annual State of the City address, Clough highlighted the achievements of each city department and measured his administration’s progress toward objectives set for the year.
Mayor Clough said Westlake sits in a strong financial position, calling it “pretty much debt free,” with a “higher bond rating [AAA] than the U.S. government.” In accordance with city goals, Westlake’s property tax and sewer rates remain the lowest in the Westshore, and in some cases, the county, while income tax rates have been stable for the past twenty years. Clough, a certified public accountant, credits his city’s diverse economic composition and responsible fiscal management.
“One of the things that makes Westlake a very attractive community is simply [that] we do manage the taxpayers’ dollars pretty wisely and we have a good, economically diverse base,” Clough said.
Westlake takes a conservative position with regard to revenue estimation and uses “worst case scenario” planning for expenditures. This approach has helped the city meet its objective of controlling costs and keeping expenditures below the level of general operating revenue for at least the past several years. With a constant eye toward increasing efficiencies, Westlake managed to maintain a high level of service to its residents while spending $3 million less in 2012 than in 2006.
Westlake benefits from a thriving commercial sector, with roughly 73 businesses opened, expanded or relocated in Westlake last year. Aside from notable exceptions including St. John Medical Center, Hyland Software and TravelCenters of America, most of the growth has occurred on a smaller scale.
“The key to economic growth often is the result of the expansion of small businesses,” Clough told the Chamber members, “so we’re very pleased that so many businesses have invested in our community.”
2013 will bring a much-anticipated Nordstrom Rack store, a consolidated headquarters building for the financial services company Equity Trust and Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Center, a 30,000-square-foot recreational facility. Mayor Clough stated that American Greetings is moving forward with design work, while waiting for approval to construct its new headquarters in Crocker Park.
The city has a number of infrastructure projects ahead, Clough said, namely improvements to Clemens Road and the Bradley/Detroit intersection, as well as a handful of projects in the design phase, including the I-90/Columbia corridor, two Canterbury Road intersections and the Bradley Road storm sewer.
Mayor Clough hopes to soon have a resolution to the matter of switching the city’s water supplier from Cleveland to Avon Lake, which is currently tied up in court, saying he “still feel[s] it’s in the best interest of the city of Westlake to change … because it gives us more control over our maintenance as well as the opportunity to use resources that are generated from the sale of water to replace water lines.” Under the current agreement, Clough explained, the city of Cleveland will repair water lines, but Westlake is responsible for the cost of replacement. “It doesn’t make any sense for the city of Westlake to replace a road without taking care of the infrastructure underneath that road.”
Already Westlake’s longest serving mayor, Clough expects to pass the three-decade mark during his next term, telling the crowd of community business leaders that he has been advised that he will be unopposed in the November election.