From left, Union City council members Shayla Nealy and Christina Hobbs, Mayor Vince Williams and city council members Angelette Mealing and Brian Jones gather at the Next Level 2.0 backdrop after the March 20 state of the city address at Banneker High School.
Union City will build on its financial strength, Mayor Vince Williams said, gained since 2013 when he took office.
He said its more than $38 million budget now includes reserves of over $14 million, up from $964,000 five years ago.
“That’s a next-level 2.0 moment,” Williams said, one of several times he would use the catchphrase during his 2018 state of the city address March 20 at Banneker High School. “It is the number that says how far we have come.”
Interrupted multiple times for applause, he attributed financial stability and other accomplishments to the persistence of city elected officials, staff and partners.
‘There’s an old Ethiopian proverb which says, when spider webs unite, you can tie down a lion,” Williams said. “We need Union City’s culture of collaboration now more than ever.”
Williams also credited lofty goals with raising the city’s aim.
“Some may think that our vision is too daunting,” he said. “Union City was not created 110 years ago to be mediocre.”
Williams heralded the first of several multi-use community centers, under construction and slated for a 2018 opening, and the first installments of $23 million in transportation special purpose local option sales tax funds dedicated to city street resurfacing.
He said the funds can also be leveraged to build a “long-awaited,” federally funded, nearly $40 million new bridge with a diverging diamond interchange at Exit 64 on I-85 at Ga. 138.
“This will be an extremely critical, next-level 2.0 step in reducing traffic congestion that we are already experiencing,” Williams said. “That’ a real game-changer.”
Bricks and mortar advancements also include an Audi luxury car showroom near completion and site selection by two other high-end automotive companies, Jaguar Land Rover and Mercedes-Benz, he said.
The city is participating in and encouraging e-commerce warehousing, the new trend in retail, Williams said, which brings selection and inventory closer to customers.
As he did last year, Williams touted the attraction of the city’s location 10 miles from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and its available space for economic development.
City housing authority member and Stockbridge developer J.T. Williams, no relation to the mayor, said afterwards that the best opportunity exists along South Fulton Parkway, which stretches from the Chattahoochee River to the I-85 and I-285 interchange.
“The mayor is trying to get it renamed the ‘Georgia Aerotropolis Corridor,’” he said. “It is the only land anywhere around the airport that is pristine and undeveloped and waiting for somebody.”
J.T. Williams said the real estate has the potential to make inroads in cyber space.
“One of the choices that the mayor mentioned tonight is make it a technology hub,” he said. “There are several of us that would like to see that happen.”
City leaders will make more improvements happen, other stakeholders said.
Cookie Smoak, president of the four-city ATL Airport District convention and visitors bureau, said in her introduction the mayor is a “dynamic leader” who is “fearless” in his pursuit of goals.
“The sky’s the limit,” she said. “We will not only soar to our highest heights and reach the next level, but we will exceed all expectations.”
Michael Hightower, managing partner of The Collaborative Firm, which includes Union City among its clients, in his introduction praised the mayor and city council’s vision, delivery of services, unity and leadership.