MARION — Marion Mayor Allen "Snooks" Bouska touted a growing population and an abundance of development at the 20th annual Marion State of the City Address on Tuesday afternoon.
The city of 36,000 has seen a 32 percent growth since 2000, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. It is expected to grow to 43,000 by 2020, he said.
An influx of development is following the growing population.
Bouska reviewed last year's development efforts during his speech, many of which have carried through to this year. The city also completed multiple projects in 2013, which include a new 42,000-square-foot police station and an industrial park, he said.
The Marion Enterprise Center, 184 acres of shovel-ready land at the corner of Highways 151 and 13, opened at the end of October. The city and economic development leaders are still in talks with interested companies, but it has signed on ElPlast, a Polish company that supplies large press-to-close zipper bags used by food, pet food, lawn care, pharmaceutical and other industries.
The business park’s first tenant will begin construction of the 36,000-square-foot building this year.
The Marion Industrial Park, a second, private industrial park, offers an additional 139 acres of land ready for development, targeted toward environmentally conscious companies.
Bouska said the city is talking with Marion Iron, a distributor of steel bars and other materials, about relocating the company from its Seventh Avenue location into the park. Trashenol company Fiberight, which turns waste into ethanol is planning to build a multimillion-dollar waste facility.
He rattled off a list of city-funded projects from roads and roundabouts to a new fire station, expanding the library and work to develop and design a trail system. Funding for these projects will come from the Local Option Sales Tax, which passed in November, he said.
Bouska said it's also important to invest in older buildings and complexes, to "save them from the wrecking ball" as he pointed toward several improvement projects — the $22 million redevelopment of Lincoln View Square and a grant application that would allow for facade improvements of 15 uptown buildings."It calls for an extraordinary amount of time, effort and funding," he said.