Mayor Joseph Bica's foc-
us on strategic planning for Ravenna is commendable, emphasizing three goals that will boost economic development, improve city services and strengthen the overall quality of life for city residents.
Since taking office, Bica has stressed the need to improve the city's tax base through an approach to economic development that not only seeks to attract new jobs but works to retain employers as well as redevelop vacant industrial sites. This hasn't been an easy task, but the mayor and the city's economic development department, led by Kerry Macomber, have made progress. Given the economy, this has been a challenge; the impending closure of the General Electric production facility will bring a new hurdle with the loss of more jobs in the future and another vacant site.
Bica's economic development goals include implementing a Joint Economic Development District with Ravenna Township, a move that will benefit both entities; redevelopment of the former White Rubber Co. site as well as the site of the former concrete plant between Main Street and Highland Avenue in downtown Ravenna; and encouraging Coleman Professional Services' plan to develop the landmark Phenix Block for commercial and residential use. The city also will be working closely with the Portage County Port Authority to redevelop the former site of Ravenna High School.
Goals for improving city services include closer interaction with the Ravenna Township Fire Department; tackling delinquent water bills; automating billing for all city departments; and reducing overall operational costs. We continue to support formation of a fire district that includes both the city of Ravenna and the township, and hope that remains a long-range goal.
Quality of life measures include demolishing condemned homes, developing a paving plan, expanding public health and safety programs and implementing the Culture and Arts program being developed by the city's parks and recreation department. Bica also suggests that the city discourage the redevelopment of homes as rental properties because Ravenna already has a high number of homes that are not owner-occupied.
Providing direction, including setting attainable goals for the future, is a sign of effective leadership. Bica says that he's attempting to move Ravenna away from "knee-jerk reactions" and toward a more proactive approach to government. That's smart thinking.
Mayor Bica's focus on the future is a progressive attitude that deserves support.