Editor's note: Today, our editorial board offers, in no specific order, five hopes we have for 2018.
Economic development progress
Signs of economic vitality are evident throughout our metro region.
Consider these examples:
- The metro Sioux City unemployment rate was only 2.8 percent for November.
- In September, Merriam, Kan., based Seaboard Foods and St. Joseph, Mo., based Triumph Foods began production at a $300 million pork plant on 250 acres of Sioux City's Bridgeport West Industrial Park. To begin, the plant employs some 1,100 workers; addition of a second shift and another 900-plus workers is planned for next year.
- This year, developers have announced plans for renovation to multiple uses of the former Warrior Hotel building, the Davidson Building, the Commerce Building, a building most recently occupied by Hatch Furniture, the former Methodist Hospital building and the building most recently occupied by KCAU.
- Progress continues on a proposed Reinvestment District Program involving construction of an agriculture/recreation center at the former site of the John Morrell plant in the old stockyards area; redevelopment to residential and commercial use by Ho-Chunk Inc. of several former industrial buildings in the 100 block of Virginia Street; construction of a hotel and parking ramp next to the city's downtown Convention Center; and rehabilitation of the former Warrior Hotel building and Davidson Building in the 500 block of Sixth Street.
- For the fourth time in the last five years, the Sioux City metro region ranks first in the nation for economic development activity in areas with populations between 50,000 and 200,000, according to Atlanta-based Site Selection magazine's annual ranking.
Our hope this year is for continued economic momentum.
Trail system expansion
Throughout our metro region, momentum builds for a stronger system of trails.
Consider these examples:
- The city of Sergeant Bluff this year approved an application to the Iowa Department of Transportation's State Recreational Trails Program for the $1.2 million first phase of the proposed Loess Hills Scenic Trail. When finished, the trail will connect Baker Park in Sergeant Bluff to the Singing Hills Trail in Sioux City.
- The City Council this year approved the low bid of $1.23 million from Dixon Construction Co. of Correctionville, Iowa, to build a connection between the Floyd and Outer Drive Trails.
- The 1.25-mile Sertoma Park Trail, which creates a loop between Sertoma and Cone Parks, was completed this year.
- A 1.5-mile section of Riverfront Trail, which will begin in 2018 pending approval of permits by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, will connect Chautauqua Park to Chris Larsen Park.
- A volunteer committee of supporters continues pursuit of its dream for creation of a $10 million, 16-mile trail, called PlyWood, between Sioux City and Le Mars.
Throughout our community, we see, hear and sense appreciation for what we have with respect to trails and enthusiasm for what can be achieved in the future. We share community desire for more trail construction, with a focus on connectivity. One day, we hope all of our community's trails will tie together to form one uninterrupted, comprehensive system for the enjoyment of walkers, runners and bikers.
Trails speak to quality of life. Simply put, money invested in trails is money well spent.
End to Highway 20 construction
Almost 60 years after the dream to widen Highway 20 across Iowa began, the end is in clear sight.
According to a Nov. 18 Journal story by Bret Hayworth, next year will be the year this key Siouxland goal reaches the finish line, with completion of work to four-lane the last 40 miles of Highway 20 between Moville and Early.
"We are actually looking prior to Nov. 1 (of 2018)," Dakin Schultz, Iowa Department of Transportation traffic planner, told Hayworth. "Everything is on schedule."
Not only is work on schedule, but the cost for completion of the final 40 miles will be some 25 percent below the original projection of $286 million estimated in 2015, Schultz said.
Barring something unforeseen, Highway 20 will be done in time for next year's busy holiday travel season. Our hope is this long-awaited celebration remains on schedule.
Extension of school tax
We support an extension of the one-cent sales tax for school infrastructure, but only for school infrastructure as was the original intent. We do not support diverting money from an extended school infrastructure tax for other purposes.
Woodbury County was the first county in Iowa to approve a 10-year, local-option sales tax for public school infrastructure (the tax first passed in 1998; county voters approved a 10-year extension in 2005). The benefits of this tax speak for themselves in the form of school improvements across the state, but perhaps no school district in Iowa has benefitted more from the tax than our local system. With revenue from the tax, the Sioux City school district has built new elementary schools, new middle schools and three high school science wings, and it's building or planning to build more elementary schools before the tax is scheduled to expire.
Still, a variety of needs remain, including the need for replacement of additional elementary schools and improvements to the district's three aging high schools or construction of new high schools (by the time the sales tax expires, Sioux City's high schools will be nearly 60 years old).
For purposes of planning and bonding for future infrastructure projects, school districts need an end to uncertainty about the tax's future.
To these ends, our hope this year is for passage by the Legislature and signature by the governor of a school infrastructure sales tax extension, with no strings attached.
Busy schedule at Tyson Events Center
A new chapter begins for the Tyson Events Center, Sioux City's signature entertainment venue, in 2018 as private management under Philadelphia-based Spectra begins.
From the beginning, we supported dialogue about future management of the Tyson Events Center, Sioux City's signature entertainment venue, because it was focused on making Tyson better for today and tomorrow. Simply put, a robust Tyson is crucial to local quality of life and strong local quality of life is essential to economic growth and prosperity.
We believe the public was well-served by the process of studying public-vs.-private management. The City Council decision was reached at the end of a what we view as a thorough study conducted over several months, including recommendations from the Orpheum Theatre Board of Directors, the Events Facilities Advisory Board and a four-member committee formed by City Manager Bob Padmore.
Under Spectra, we look forward to what we hope is a new era of even greater success, at less taxpayer cost, for a building so key to the future of our city.