By Anna Skinner
City Council President Jim Ake presented to the Westfield Kiwanis Club at its June 6 meeting. He spoke on Westfield’s history and the city’s goals for the future.
“I think the challenge for us to figure out what our mission is going forward and into the future, is to make (the city) prosperous, sustainable, a place for future generations and our own kids to come back to,” he said. “We have people moving here that want to be here.”
Ake said when Westfield became a city in 2008, Mayor Andy Cook and the city council decided to focus more on business-based development. One such economic engine was Grand Park, which opened in 2014.
“Since its opening, (Grand Park) has been our economic driver, adding diversity to our tax base and changing it and helping us grow again,” he said. “It’s filling the very need we perceived would happen.”
Last year, 612,172 visitors brought 1,869,395 visits to Grand Park. That totaled to more than 60,000 nights in hotel rooms and 11,344 sports teams. Visitor spending was $97 million in 2015 and rose to $145 million in 2017.
“That is the impact of Grand Park,” Ake said. “It’s trending upwards as word spreads, as we book more tournaments and diversify the use of the inside facility. You can expect that trend to continue.”
Ake noted two other ways the city has strengthened the past few years. Those are the water and wastewater utility sale to Citizens Energy Group in 2014 and the development of U.S. 31. The utility sold for $91 million.
Ake also addressed the city’s economic development front.
“We have $92 million in development already built or under construction (and) $491 million approved or currently in the planning process,” Ake said, citing developments such as Cambria Suites, Hampton Inn, Grand Millenium, Riverview Hospital and Aurora, a 300-acre industrial park originally proposed in the early 2000s.
“These are things that add to the economy,” he said.
Ake followed the economic development numbers with a residential development update.
“We no longer have (new) starter homes in our community,” he said. “New additions include Chatham Hills, Derby Ridge, Harmony and Osborne Trails. The point is we are adding value every day in this community. Our future is bright. Indiana’s population has slipped form the 15th most populous nationally to 17th, with 85 percent of the population growth concentrated in only five counties – Hamilton, Marion, Tippecanoe, Hendricks and Allen.
“Many Indiana counties and towns are suffering while we are growing. Westfield is doing the right things for the right reasons. It’s a competitive world out there, and Westfield needs to compete with other locations, even in our own county.”