I am very pleased to be able to spend time with you all this afternoon to provide another annual update on the state of our city.
We can begin with the basic assessment first: Becker continues to be in a very good state, and we continue to be well-positioned to stay that way for the foreseeable future.
Becker continues to benefit from a strong local and State economy as well as our excellent location within the region. We can be proud of our employment base, businesses, innovative and forward-thinking school district and educational institutions, our great parks and trails system and other amenities, as well as our solid transportation connections.
2016 was a great year! An abridged version of accomplishments, including:
So much of what gives us those advantages and assets in which we can take such pride comes from the hard work and commitment of the people who live here, work here, own businesses here, volunteer here, and care about their community.
I believe the best thing we can do as the local unit of government is be sure that everything we do contributes to the success of all those other efforts – or at the very least stays out of the way of those efforts.
These priorities have developed through our community’s vision, and in my opinion serve as a useful means to measure where we are. The priorities include:
You will also notice that as we converse, each and every topic we discuss today will fit below one or more of the above priorities. By design. We want to become stronger as a community. We will work smarter. We will work more efficiently. We will leverage our current resources to better position our community for the next generations.
As you may have heard, Xcel Energy will be decommissioning two of the three coal fired power generating units in the next decade or so. One of our top priorities will be to collaborate with Xcel Energy in an effort to change the tax structure from taxing equipment to an energy production tax. This change will help stabilize the City’s budgeting process and financial future as this new structure will allow the city to forecast future revenue and better plan for our distant future.
Even though the decommissioning may have seemed like the end of the road for us, I believe it is just the beginning of something bigger. For example, the 2017 Legislature (Representative Newberger, Senator Mathews, and Senator Brown) passed a Bill and Governor Dayton signed it into law to build an 800-megawatt natural gas fired power generating plant right here in Becker. This $800 million gas plant will not be a retrofit to one of the retired and mothballed units. This will be a brand-new freestanding facility that will create a large number of construction jobs as it is being built. In addition, the transmission line will create additional opportunities as we will have additional gas capacity.
The collaborative efforts that lead up to the Natural Gas Plant bill signing has created stronger relationships between the City, Xcel Energy, Sherburne County, the MN Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) and the Governor’s office. The City had the honor of meeting with the Commissioner of DEED and the Governor’s office regarding the transition from a coal based economy to a more diversified economy in the coming years. The Governor has instructed DEED and other departments and staff to assist the City with our transitional efforts. This is a great opportunity to bolster our economic development efforts with extra resources from the State of Minnesota.
Xcel Energy is also partnering with the City on economic development projects. Our Community Development Department has been working tirelessly to get our City owned industrial park lots certified and marketed as “shovel ready.” These certified lots allow the City to broaden the marketing efforts of our Industrial Park. Not only is the City promoting business to locate or expand in Becker, but Xcel Energy is also promoting our community as a great location for businesses to build and grow. In fact, just last week at the Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation annual meeting I witnessed firsthand Xcel promoting the City of Becker. Not only are we talking about them, they are talking about us on a regional/national level. In addition, Xcel Energy is marketing Xcel-owned property for future growth of the industrial park. One example that stands out as a potential new resident is the site acquisition slated for Northern Metal Recycling. This 53-acre site would be used to locate NMR to property close to the Sherco plant and close to the BNSF railroad.
Becker has so much to offer:
The Becker City Council and I have hit the ground running. It is true we have some challenges in front of us. It is also true that we look forward to meeting those challenges. We have exciting times ahead!
You have my pledge to make Becker a better place, our government more effective, and our image more positive. I have great confidence in what we can accomplish as we move into the future.
Becker truly is a great place to live and will only become better!
Tracy Bertram, Mayor
City of Becker, Minnesota