Fort Worth’s future is looking younger.
The average age in Fort Worth is 31.6, one of the youngest ages among large cities in Texas. The average age in Texas is 33.9, while in the U.S. it is 37.4.
That was one of the many messages from Mayor Betsy Price’s annual State of the City Address.
Price, who has been mayor since 2011, noted that the city was “reeling” from the recession when she took office.
“We’ve made great progress on many issues,” since then, she said. She noted that Fort Worth’s efforts at pension reform have put it ahead of other Texas cities like Dallas where the issue has gone to the courts.
Price also noted that last year the city lowered the tax rate 2 cents for the first time since 2008.
“We look to lower it again to make us more competitive,” she said.
“Whether you call home Cowtown, Panther City, Funky Town or just The Fort, we are growing like gangbusters,” she said. “The growth is a blessing, but it’s also a challenge.”
She outlined her vision for Fort Worth in the future, eight years in the future, to be specific. “It’s only a heartbeat in the life of a city,” she said.
“My vision for the future of Fort Worth is we are the most livable, healthiest, best educated, engaged, fiscally responsible and well-managed big city,” she said.
That won’t happen by accident. “But it will happen by design, hard work, unity and determination,” she said. “Does that sound like Fort Worth or what?”
But there are challenges. Fort Worth’s poverty rate, for one: 19 percent of our citizens live in poverty; in 1990, 14 percent lived in poverty.
When it comes to poverty, Fort Worth is higher than the U.S. average and the Texas average. Fort Worth “can – and must – do better,” she said.
Price focused on three priorities:
• Improving the vitality of our struggling neighborhoods
• Bringing new investment and new jobs where they are most needed.
• Investing in our children.
Some of our historic neighborhoods are struggling, she said.
Price used the Stop Six neighborhood as an example. “You have to wonder why one neighborhood continues to struggle,” she said.
In Stop Six, 79 percent of the residents have moderate to low incomes and the unemployment rate is 21 percent, compared to the city’s unemployment rate of 4 percent. The city plans to invest $2.36 million in the area to improve streets, repairing and installing new streetlights and sidewalks and adding community policing to the area, including bicycle patrols.
“We must unite…to improve [these neighborhoods],” she said.
Focusing on jobs, Price said the city’s economic development team is working on a strategic plan for the city looking at corporate recruitment, higher paying jobs, workforce development, international business development and education among other goals.
She also noted that small businesses continue to be a strength for the city.
“Small business must and will be the backbone of what we do,” she said.
The city’s development portfolio must be diverse, she said.
The State of the City address was presented by The Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce. The presenting sponsor was Southwest Bank.
Before the event, the Fort Worth Chamber presented the 2017 Small Business of the Year awards, The presenting sponsor for that event was Northstar Bank.
For the 2017 Small Business of the Year Awards: