We felt very good about Mentor’s future after we heard the 2014 State of the City Address on Tuesday, March 25th, at the Chamber of Commerce’s monthly luncheon because the speech took into consideration all of the things that a community must do to both maintain itself and move forward in these times. The person who delivered this speech was the City Manager, Kenneth J. Filipiak who started off by saying that the key to the success of a community like Mentor was to encourage innovation and that the role of government was to “add value” to the residents and to the business community in ways that other places have not.
It certainly does appear that Mentor tries to assist entrepreneurs who want to start local businesses because it provides the necessary resources to do everything from assisting with the permit process, to securing financing as well as other necessities all the way up to the official ribbon-cutting.
Interestingly one of the challenges that Mentor faces is the fact that that the population has grown older with 45 years being the median age so the city is doing its best to reach out to young professionals seeking a place to settle and raise a family by providing good schools, affordable housing and community safety (drug arrests are up but thefts have gone down as a result) as well as activities that would appeal to the younger set such as the Headlands Beach Fest coming up in July of 2014 and the City Festival which will take place in August.
In terms of innovation, Mentor is involved in the new IWatch North East Ohio program which enables citizens to report suspicious behavior to the police via smart phones, and a fascinating program that uses bright lights and sounds to warn deer of oncoming vehicles to avoid collisions. On a much less serious note, pickleball courts are being built because pickleball is now recognized as the fastest growing recreational program in the U.S. so the residents do not have to leave the city to play it (What’s pickleball? Here’s some info).
Perhaps the most ambitious program of all, though, is the fact that Mentor has an International Trade Program (usually this is done at the state and federal level only) whose purpose is to attract foreign investment and target companies which have international export potential and work with them. Along these lines, a workshop will be offered in May, 2014 dealing with International Trade Standards.
Let’s conclude by describing Mr. Filipiak’s job; first, let it be noted that Mentor doesn’t have a traditional mayor but a City Manager who is a professional public administrator appointed by the City Council who is selected due to his/her expertise, educational background, and prior managerial experience. Subsequently, the City Manager accepts the role of chief executive officer and is head of the city’s administrative agencies. From what we heard on the 25th, Mr. Filipiak is more than up to the job and does it quite well.
Also on the 25th, we attended a North Coast Chamber of Commerce networking event at GK’s Custom Polishing in Avon along with about 180 other attendees, many of whom we already knew. We had a good time and the food (from local providers/restaurants) was good and hot—a welcome relief considering the cold weather and the snow that was falling outside. Through various conversations, we made about 25 new acquaintances, including some potential new clients. Moreover, it is always fulfilling and fun to meet people who have used or know someone who has used the services of Margaret W. Wong and Associates and want to convey their best wishes to Ms. Wong and the rest of the staff.