PORTLAND – “Right now, we’re in an inspirational moment. It’s January 2020, the first month of a new decade. It’s one of those moments in time where you can’t help to stop and think about the past and think about the future,” State of the City keynote speaker Portland Mayor Cathy Skurow said to a packed audience in the newly remodeled Portland Community Center.

The annual informative gathering of residents and county officials is meant to showcase the growth Portland has achieved in the past and what the future will hold as the population grows along with industry and local business.

“Benjamin Franklin once said, without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement and success have no meaning,” Skurow added. 

“Everywhere you look in Portland right now, you see growth, and you see the improvements, the achievements and the successes that accompany.” 

During her speech she said the city is at 2.5 percent population growth per year, an 8 percent annual growth in sales tax revenues as well as new developments and investments coming to Portland.

She said that $35 billion has been invested by industrial companies – expanding or relocating in this area – all within one and a half miles of Portland. Between 2017 and 2019, approximately  $123  million in new taxable value was added to their tax base which was primarily from construction of new homes, the completion of apartment projects and several hotels.

Skurow also said that the city’s planning and zoning commission has approved preliminary plans for around 1,000 new homes, and is aware of another developer working on preliminary plans for a round 500 more.

In 2019, the city also issued nine new commercial permits.

“So what does this growth mean for our community?” the mayor asked. “Well, along with the challenges of the additional impact on infrastructure and a growing number of citizens requiring services, these increases in the tax base, sales tax and hotel occupancy tax means that the city can begin improvements and expand services that our citizens have been requesting, and that will improve their quality of life.”

Mayor Skurow mentioned that she’s heard concerns from residents that growth could cause higher crime rates and that the city won’t be able to keep up with the influx of people, or the traffic, and the community will lose its identity.

In last year’s budget, the city council addressed these concerns by adding public safety, fire, police and code enforcement employees to their staff.

She also said that violent and non-violent crimes went down in 2019.

Perhaps the one thing that got the biggest cheer from the audience was the mention of a new shopping center that would bring one of the areas favorite restaurants to town.

“We can finally confirm that Chick-fil-A will soon come to Portland,” Skurow said. “The developers leading this effort will demolish the old K-mart building and erect several new buildings to house new retail and additional restaurants. 

“This is a huge win for the city of Portland. In every city, redevelopment is imperative.

“When we have older commercial buildings that don’t have tenants and aren’t bringing in business, they also aren’t bringing in tax revenue and they’re more likely to become an eyesore.”

She also announced that a new flagship Olive Garden restaurant, one that will feature an upscale dining experience, will be coming to the city. Only a few of these types of Olive Gardens have been built throughout the country.

She also talked about the Indian Point Pier Project which will see a large functional structure that will greet visitors coming from Corpus Christi. A large boat ramp will also be built at Indian Point Park to allow easy access to the bay for tourists, anglers and the city’s residents.

“We take great pride in our community here in Portland and you see it in the way that local families and volunteers engage and help to build amenities that benefit the rest of the community,” Skurow said in closing.

“Right now I’m calling on each one of you in this new decade. Be engaged. Be visionary.

“Now is the time to embrace and guide this growth into a decade of prosperity for our entire region. Let’s continue together to build our future. Thank you, God bless you.

“And God bless Portland Texas, the land of opportunity.”