"Today marks the first time the Surprise State of the City
address is being delivered in partnership with the Chamber of
Commerce, right here at the Rosskamp - Sun Health, Colonnade. That
says a lot about how much our community has progressed. We've laid
solid foundations to support a bright future full of opportunity
for us all. I believe, today will mark the beginning of a
tradition, an annual event where you come to be energized by the
promise and excitement Surprise offers you, your business and your
'The Surprise Regional Chamber of Commerce' has a nice ring to
it, doesn't it? The Chamber's name is representative of the
regional approach we take in facing our challenges and
opportunities. We have grown as a community by recognizing that our
success depends upon cooperating and partnering with others. When
we look around, we immediately see why Surprise has a strong
regional presence: the beauty of the White Tank Mountains; the fun
we enjoy with our families at Lake Pleasant; the World Wildlife Zoo
and Aquarium and their great restaurant, Tiburon, a Chamber of
Commerce member; Speed World attracts thousands of visitors to our
area, and gives us national media exposure on the Speed Channel.
And by the way, they are also a Chamber member.
Within our borders we have Surprise Stadium, the greatest place
in the region to see a Spring Training game. We boast the Kansas
City Royals and the American League Champion, Texas Rangers.
Pitchers and catchers report in just a few weeks bringing with them
the promise of another exciting season of baseball!
Our award winning Surprise Tennis and Racquet Center is admired
across the country. Surprise Tennis has enjoyed spectacular success
regionally and nationally. We've hosted such tennis stars as John
McEnroe, Andre Agassi and Anna Kournikova. Every year, this
tournament, underwritten by Cancer Treatment Centers of America,
creates excitement and international exposure for Surprise.
Year 2010 we celebrated our 50th anniversary as a municipality,
with many special events around the community. We saw the inception
of the Surprise Historical Society and the publication of a book
and a video honoring our past. At City Hall, in the Mayor's Atrium,
we are constructing a permanent history exhibit to share and honor
As we reflected on our 50 year history, we found a myriad of
enterprising people who believed in hard work and opportunity.
These were people willing to bet their future that Surprise would
be a winner.
In an exciting new city such as ours, it's easy to assume that
progress is inevitable. But that's not true. Progress is not
inevitable. Competition for jobs is fierce, the struggle for
resources that create opportunity, such as good transportation and
great recreation, never ends. We have endured tough conditions in
the past three years, the most difficult economy of our
In Surprise, we have risen to these challenges in a united way,
and I can tell you that today, our city has added more new jobs
than it did three years ago, we have better transportation, more
educational opportunities and we enjoy more recreational choices
than we ever have. I can also promise you that by working together
and helping each other, a brighter Surprise lies ahead for our
families and businesses.
Our city council is providing strong leadership for Surprise.
Due to our efforts in working together, listening to you and
responding to your needs, we have been able to achieve success and
create a vision for our future. In fact, this very evening when the
council meets, we will consider a Strategic Plan that is the result
of a partnership with the people of Surprise. It charts a clear
course for the future of our community, and sets exciting and yes,
Many of our council members are in attendance today as is our
City Manager Mark Coronado. Thank you all for the great work you do
and for being here today.
Community life like our lives and the lives of our families and
businesses is about change and growth. One great change I am sure
you have noticed is a growing sense of community engagement! You
have had more opportunities to share your thoughts and opinions
than ever before. Your input has been sought on important
decisions, including our last budget, our Strategic Plan, the 4-10
city hall schedule and our first ever National Citizens Survey. We
sought out your opinion and BOYEE! Have you responded!
Surprise has awakened to a new day of community enthusiasm,
engagement and a spirit of working together. Our Neighborhood Pride
Days are spearheaded by volunteers from all over the city,
including folks from our faith-based communities. Many of our
residents volunteer their weekend hours cleaning up neighborhoods,
hacking at weeds and picking up debris, keeping our community clean
and keeping our community spirit high
Through the Compassionate Surprise concept, faith based leaders
are partnering with us to improve social services. They have
already benefitted hundreds of young people and soon will be
helping those in emergency situations such as families affected by
domestic violence or temporarily without shelter.
The spirit of partnership and broad thinking is becoming the
Surprise brand, and you can see it when the conversation turns to
transportation. Although our transportation efforts are far from
over, 2011 will see the widening of Grand Avenue completed, and
that means a new, rubberized roadway with three lanes in each
direction. Bell Road's reconstruction is now complete, and in 2011,
for the first time, we will see a six lane freeway within our city
limits. The long awaited 303 comes out of the ground this spring!
This is the kind of vision and determination our founders would be
proud of, and that our grandchildren will appreciate.
Modern freeways bring with them, tens of millions of dollars in
economic development. As the 303 emerges and the economy improves,
the impact will strike our community like lightning. This year, you
will start to see it happen. When people look back on this era,
they will say, these were the days the new foundation was laid, and
to prove that case, look no further than the 303 freeway.
Looking ahead is something we do in Surprise and that is why we
are also focusing on what the rail line can mean to our future, it
will be vital for job creation, it will be a crucial cargo and
commuter rail corridor to Phoenix and across the nation.
Currently, we own land along the corridor near Grand Avenue and
Bell Road, which is our new Park and Ride lot. 'But look into the
future' and you can easily imagine a rail station there!
Partnership, vision, and regional thinking are helping folks of
all ages meet their educational needs in Surprise. We all know one
of the surest ways to build a quality community is through
education. Just two years ago, higher education in Surprise was
When you look at our city today, you can see that the dream of
higher education is now, available, accessible and affordable.
Working together, the City and Rio Salado College have brought the
Communiversity at Surprise to our City Center. Truly, a unique
The Communiversity, led by Doctor Todd Aakhus, again, a Chamber
member, is a fantastic opportunity, with three community colleges,
two universities and a high school district that focuses on career
and technical education. Now, you can earn an Associate's Degree,
Bachelor's Degree and even a Master's Degree either online, or in
person, right here in Surprise.
As we look to the future, this council and I are committed to
attracting a four year university in a traditional college-campus
setting. That goal is plainly stated in the strategic plan we will
vote on tonight. Won't it be exciting to see the growth of arts,
culture and the crackle of intellectual energy a four year campus
will bring to Surprise?
Dr. Gail Pletnick, an active member of the Chamber, is here
today. She is the Superintendent of the Dysart Unified School
District, a key person in making Surprise a place of opportunity
and connection for all. Her Board and staff have made the Dysart
District a showcase for educational improvement and excellence.
When you look back just a few years, the district had NO excelling
or highly performing schools. Today, the District boasts four
excelling and seven highly performing schools! WOW!
This past Friday, Councilman Williams and I visited the
engineering department at Shadow Ridge High School. We observed
students studying robotics, 3 dimensional designs and saw the first
in the state ethanol lab to study bio fuels. Today Dysart students
are learning in a classroom without boundaries for careers that do
not yet exist!
You can't help but get excited, by the commitment to excellence
that Doctor Pletnick and her team bring to the table, as they
continue to challenge and motivate our young people.
The story of excellent education in Surprise also includes our
charter schools, which enroll over 20% of our Surprise students.
One of those schools, Arizona Charter Academy, yet, another chamber
member, has been recognized as one of Arizona's 2010 Most Admired
Companies, as one of the Valleys Best Places to Work by the Phoenix
Business Journal, AND was named by AZ Magazine as one of the Top 25
Workplaces for Women in the state. We are blessed to have many
great educators and employers in Surprise!
Diane McCarthy and WestMEC are creating Arizona's first
Fabrication Laboratory in a city-owned building adjacent to City
Hall. The Fab Lab is a workshop where users can create models and
prototypes that may lead to marketable products, being invented and
developed right here in our community.
One important way we have grown is by recognizing that our
success does not stop at our city boundaries. Take the good news we
have this year about job creation. In August, I was proud to be
part of the team announcing the arrival of a Spanish company, Rio
Glass Solar, to Surprise. RioGlass will build its US headquarters
here and invest millions of dollars in solar related manufacturing.
This means hundreds of construction jobs and ultimately 200 high
quality, permanent jobs. As proud as I am of Surprise of this
achievement, I don't pretend for a minute that we did it alone.
That August day we were joined by Governor Jan Brewer, Michael
Bidwell and Barry Broome of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council.
Without these partners, RioGlass would not be here today.
Many of you in this room recognize that these achievements are
capturing the attention of corporations everywhere. Just a few
years ago, our Southwest Railplex was a largely vacant area along
the BNSF rail spur. It was a promising location, a place where
everyone could see potential. But as every business owner knows,
from potential to reality is a large leap. Making that leap was
Rich Marchant of Crescent Crown Distributing, who opened a 275,000
square foot distribution facility there in 2009, the very darkest
days of the Recession. Today, Crescent Crown, a Chamber member,
employs approximately 200 people right here in our community, 200
good solid jobs. Brentwood Industries will also join us this year.
Based in Pennsylvania, Brentwood will build 125,000 square feet of
manufacturing and packaging facilities.
At the last city council meeting we welcomed Sante
Rehabilitation Clinic to Surprise. Their new facility under
construction near Del Web hospital will bring an additional 80
well-paying jobs to our community. That same night we OKed the
construction of a new Banner Medical Plaza, in Surprise Center near
These achievements, in this economy, speak to the drive, the
enthusiasm and the spirit of our residents, and of you, our
business community. I couldn't be more proud of what you have
Of course, new industries provide more and better jobs, but
there are other benefits. New employers add a corporate presence to
our community life, and provide revenues that help pay for
essential City services.
You may have heard that Surprise is now part of a west valley
Foreign Trade Zone. Let me tell you why that's important. A foreign
trade zone encourages international trade in Surprise. That is
another step to attracting good, solid jobs to our city, and
carving out our place in the global market.
As farsighted as a foreign trade zone is, we have another
development that has just as much potential. In 2009, the city
council decided to create a business incubator at the former City
Aptly named, the AZ TechCelerator, is an innovation hot spot
where new business ideas are nurtured to life, with a modest boost
from the City.
One TechCelerator example is Athena Wireless Communications led
by CEO Eduardo Tinoco. So far, Athena has filed seven patents and
secured $2 million dollars in funding. Eduardo has already hired
ten people as his business starts to take root at our
TechCelerator. Eduardo is a Chamber member and is here today.
Eduardo, thank you for bringing your entrepreneurial spirit to
The TechCelerator is already home to 14 businesses and has
churned out more than 50 new jobs. It has generated media buzz all
over the region, and received, a WESTMARC, "Best of the West"
award, for innovation. Today, I am inviting you to visit them at
their open house on Saturday, from ten to noon. See the excitement
for yourself! Any of the TechCelerator companies could be a future
major employer, grown and rooted right here in Surprise.
Yes, indeed! Economic energy is building momentum in Surprise!
Just this past weekend an executive representing Ford Motor Company
called me to share their intention and commitment to bringing Ford
to the auto mall at Prasada! While the deal is yet to be inked,
they are giving assurances of groundbreaking in 2011 and a ribbon
cutting of the new Ford dealership in 2012. Surprise is on a roll!
Yes, that pun was very much intended!
On a day like today, we all realize how fortunate we are to live
in this gorgeous environment. It was only a few years ago that
Surprise began to see our responsibility to preserve our desert
setting. Today, we are beginning to meet that responsibility. Solar
panels are going up on the city hall parking garage as we begin to
bring clean energy to Surprise. Last summer, we experimented with
expanding City Hall hours to improve service and help the
environment by using less energy. People loved the expanded Monday
thru Thursday hours, so we made it a year round schedule. Already
we have saved thousands in energy costs.
We are taking Surprise into a sustainable future! Recently,
Surprise created a Sustainability Division with existing staff that
will look for grant money and ways to reduce our carbon footprint.
This action is a direct result of what the public tell us they
want. Sustainability, is part of the Strategic Plan council
In our Strategic Plan input sessions, people said they really
wanted to see an increase in recycling, and we have responded! We
have come to an agreement with Waste Management and Surprise
residents will be able to recycle household glass and more plastics
than ever. This is a dramatic expansion of our curbside recycling
program. It is also good news for our environment. It will even
save us money since we will be compensated for collecting these
Like many of you, I enjoy telling distant friends and relatives
about what a wonderful community we share. I encourage them to come
see a Spring Training game, or enjoy hiking in our fabulous White
Tank Mountains. I get so enthusiastic they may think I am
exaggerating, but the truth is, we live in such an attractive
community, amidst such beautiful surroundings, sometimes we can't
quite believe it ourselves.
It's that passion we feel for Surprise that makes us want to
share it with the world! That is why we formed a Tourism Advisory
Committee in 2010, and late last year, we approved their Strategic
Plan. Tourism is Arizona's single biggest industry, and Surprise
will be in the game!
Today, with the spectacular success of Spring Training and
Championship Tennis, we are building that critical mass of what I
call pure tourism: people who are here because we have created
attractions that draw them here.
We are going build on that. We are setting a goal of having
Surprise, Sedona and Scottsdale all mentioned in the same breath
when people talk about beautiful and welcoming Arizona
When we move forward with our strategic plan tonight, you will
see sound, focused plans for tourism creating an entertainment
corridor in Surprise, developing a year round framework of
festivals, and talking with developers about an eco resort at the
foot of the White Tanks. In other words, creating a unique Surprise
experience that will attract people from around the country and
around the world.
As we continue to work together, I believe that when we
celebrate our 100th birthday, future residents will look back with
appreciation. They will say, today's community was a community of
vision, even in tough times that we were the people who brought
good jobs to Surprise and put us on the road to a true
live/work/play community; that we saw the potential for tourism and
built up a world class destination. I believe people will look back
and see us as a community where tough times didn't divide people,
but instead, brought us together as an engaged community, one with
the good sense to look out for each other and nurture home grown
small businesses. They will see a community that acted on the need
to save our environment, preserving it as a priceless heritage.
In a tough economic climate, we are doing remarkably well! That
is the message that each of us should share and feel good about,
because it is a message of how strongly we feel about the goodness
and the future of our community.
I look forward to seeing you out in the community, to talking
with you individually about our challenges and our plans, and to
hearing your ideas about an even greater future. Thank you for
being here today, and thank you for all you are doing to make
Surprise such a special place!"