As we come to the end of my first year in office, I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to Interim City Administrator Laura Gourley, city staff, city council, boards, commissions, and advisory committees. All of these folks play an instrumental role in making Gardner thrive. We can’t do what we do in a vacuum as it takes all of us united in partnership to accomplish our many goals.
The year 2018 has seen some amazing opportunities. Several new businesses opened their doors with the Hampton Inn and Excelligence Learning Corporation soon to follow. There were 130 new homes constructed, and three new subdivisions were completed, creating an additional 170 new lots. RideKC expanded their bus route to reach more businesses in Gardner and Edgerton, helping to drive job access for employers and employees in Southern Johnson County. And, our city continues to grow. As a matter of fact, in 2018, Gardner was ranked as the third fastest-growing city in Kansas and is consistently one of the top 20 largest cities in the state. We’ve also gained a dynamic force in the city’s administrative leadership, solidifying a culture of teamwork, transparency and trust both internally and externally. Our relationships with other governmental entities are better now than ever before. We have developed a greater presence in the larger vision of the region. This is due in part to our enhanced relationships with Southwest Johnson County Economic Development Corporation, Gardner-Edgerton Chamber of Commerce, Kansas City Area Development Council, Kansas Department of Transportation and the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority.
Evidence of Gardner’s growing momentum will continue to manifest in 2019 as we’ve secured funding for the Gardner Road/I-35 Interchange, which will jumpstart $100 million-plus in investments on the south side of town. We’ll also be announcing a significant development project going in on the southeast side of 175th Street and I-35. Be sure to attend this spring’s State of the City for more details.
While our primary goal continues to be economic development, this administration has equally dedicated energy to transforming the culture of the organization by implementing some of the best aspects of private-business thinking to help maintain the organization’s brightest people. This includes enhancing our employee wellness and benefits program, creating mentoring apprenticeship opportunities, promoting from within, and rewarding employees for their above and beyond customer service through our new Relentlessly Positive and Professional Customer Service Awards Program. In short, we believe if we continue to foster our efforts in these areas, employees will feel valued and stay committed to the organization.
So, in closing, my first year has been personally gratifying, because together as a team, we have positioned Gardner for amazing things to come in 2019. I’m excited about all the possibilities before us as we continue to blaze new trails.