“This is my 11th budget message and ten years since I was first elected mayor … I’m amazed by all we are doing in this small town.” Steve Williams addressed City Council Monday night at City Hall.

The yearly budget message (or State of the City) gives Huntington stakeholders a summary of policy achievements, problems to be addressed, and current goals. Mayor Williams, in his trademark emphatic and dramatic style attempted to inspire pride and resolution in City observers, as he enters the final two years of his twelve year, term-limited administration.

   The theme of the talk was success, or success by intentional hard work, or ‘the Huntington Way.’ “How can you have $500,000,000 worth of projects in this sized city? How is it we are doing all this? We work hard and the harder you work the luckier you become … we have a vision of unbridled opportunity where Huntington is seen as the Gateway to Appalachia, this is the Huntington Way.”

    Steve Williams told Council and City officials”our unemployment rate of 3% is less than half of the 6.6% that it was in January 2013 … lower than any time since 1969. We have more activity present in our city than we have had in more than five decades.” 

   He pointed out that he makes “decisions with an eye to the impact on the Tri-State, West Virginia and the Appalachian region … as a small community we have an advantage over the largest cities … we can identify faster what works, quicker, what doesn’t and sooner how to fix it, we serve as the home for pilot projects establishing innovative solutions. Communication, collaboration, partnerships and trust yield hope as an outcome — never as a tactic.”

   Moving into specifics, Mayor Williams cited 86 public meetings solicited input by nearly 3,000 individuals for infrastructure plans. He touted the three new nonprofit citizen organizations; Fairfield CDC, West End RenewAll and the Highlawn Alliance.

He said that the twenty-seven Sewer and Storm water projects, thirteen transportation projects, seven city facilities, eight economic development, three beautification and nine quality of life endeavors add up to over five hundred million dollars in civic investment, all due to be completed in two to five years. He mentioned partnerships with Marshall University, the city of Charleston, MountWest college, the Coalfield Development Corporation — and over $15 million in USA Build Back Better funds. 

   More specifically the Mayor cited the Highlawn ACF site, where over eight million dollars will set up a manufacturing hub centered on a new Welding & Robotics Technology Training Center. Solar Holler and Coalfields Development will receive $7.5 million to transform the Black Diamond Westmoreland factory site into a new ‘Mine the Sun’ logistical training center. Marshall and the city are collaborating to bring a $25 million baseball stadium “expected to be open for competition in the spring of 2024.” 

  The long neglected Hal Greer corridor will be developed in two stages, an eighteen million dollar improvement from 3rd Avenue south to Washington Blvd, followed by an eight million dollar upgrade of Hal Greer from Washington Blvd. to Kinetic Park and I-64. “You won’t be able to recognize it” after the improvements, he said

   The Mayor said Huntington has become “the most dynamic downtown area in a hundred mile radius” and he expressed confidence in the City’s recent acquisition of the Pullman Square leasing corporation, now “assured to have local control.” Fourteen million dollars is earmarked for further streetscape redesign and lighting downtown.

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