Aberdeen Mayor Patrick McGrady has announced a new economic development initiative that not only has many of the same goals as previous efforts, but also confronts many of the same issues that city leaders have long felt hold the town back.
"We have many opportunities in Aberdeen," McGrady said at Monday night's City Council meeting, "the exciting potential for retail development, new home construction and great new recreation is only limited by our imaginations."
It's more than just imagination, however, that keeps Aberdeen from reaching its potential, McGrady said.
After reading passages from the city charter outlining some of the duties and responsibilities of Aberdeen's Economic Development Commission, the mayor said the city needs more in the coming year from this all-volunteer body.
"This is a good and important list of responsibilities, but we have other issues in Aberdeen, and Aberdeen needs help with them," the mayor said.
"Reputation," McGrady said. "People outside of Aberdeen who don't really know Aberdeen have mistaken views of what Aberdeen is. They think our schools are not as great as they are, and they think we have lots of crime."
Those laments are the same many other Aberdeen officials have made for decades, claiming those outside of Aberdeen wrongly perceive life in the community. There has also been much talk about how to change public misconceptions about Aberdeen living.
"We can overcome reputation because we know better than the rumors that circulate," McGrady said, as he read from a prepared statement. "Aberdeen is great."
Aberdeen's other area in need of change, the mayor said, is the city government and its processes.
"I have heard a lot of concerns about the challenges of working on construction projects in the city limits," he said. "We also have a hard time getting the big construction companies to bid on our road paving jobs, leaving us with only one bid on jobs of $500,000-plus, and we need to do better."
The mayor offered a simple solution to problems with the city government processes.
"We can fix the government processes to make sure we are being fair, even-handed and clear with everybody who wants to do business in Aberdeen," he said.
McGrady made his comments as he introduced the names of seven people he is nominating to serve on the Economic Development Commission, a body he expects to be energetic and enthusiastic about advocating for Aberdeen beyond the city's borders.
"This body, the Economic Development Commission, will be cheerleaders for the City of Aberdeen," the mayor said, "saying to everybody who will listen in business or otherwise: If you are not in Aberdeen, you're missing out."
McGrady's nominees are Uyesh Bhatti, of Travelodge/Grumpy's; Don Curry, of DR Curry Contracting and TCA Property Management; Steve Horne, of Horne Concrete; Dan Lambros, of Liberty Real Estate Services; Tammy Lowry-Gault, of the Holiday Inn Express and the Stadium Town Centre Development; Dave Lynch, of Ferrell Fuel; and George Robinson, of Robinson LLC.
McGrady said he expects the Economic Development Commission to recruit subcommittees of volunteers not appointed by the mayor and City Council to represent Aberdeen's various businesses and to make sure their input reaches the mayor and City Council.
The mayor said he will ask the City Council to approve the seven nominees at the next council session. In addition to that group, the mayor said Aberdeen Proving Ground is sending an ad hoc member for the commission and he has asked Police Chief Henry Trabert to also serve as an ad hoc member.
The mayor also told the council members he would consider anyone else they might recommend for the commission.
"I want this to be a group of varied geographic and business interests to best represent all the businesses in Aberdeen," he said.
The mayor reiterated he has high hopes for the Economic Development Commission and that he anticipates the group's meetings will be lively and full of action.
"As always, I'm excited about the possibilities that are on the horizon for Aberdeen," he said, "and I'm very excited to see what we can achieve working together toward a common goal."