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Woodbury mayor gives State of the City address

For Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens, it's not about government doing more or being more hands off, it's about government doing better.

That was much of the theme during a Friday afternoon speech the mayor gave to about a hundred or so Woodbury Area Chamber of Commerce members and guests at Eagle Valley Golf Course. In Stephens' information-packed speech, she touched on the city's accomplishments, trends and what the future holds for one of the fastest-growing Twin Cities suburbs.

"As the ninth-largest city (in Minnesota), Woodbury remains the economic hub of the east metro, and we know much of our success is because we have this clear vision, and we have been a well-planned community," Stephens said.

To date, the city holds about 20,000 jobs from a swath of different industries, and the number of new jobs and businesses continues to grow, Stephens said. According to information she presented, the city has added 140 businesses since 2010 and 18 businesses alone this year.

The medical sector also saw significant growth this year and added seven new health care facilities in Woodbury.

"We want to continue being known as a health care destination and a regional destination," she said.

Commercial property taxes also remain lower than other Twin Cities suburbs, at roughly $4,500 annually for properties valued at $1 million, according to city data Stephens presented.

Stephens touched on the history of CityPlace, the 100-acre project on the northern edge of the city.

The site was previously State Farm Insurance's regional headquarters for a number of years before the insurer moved in 2006, leaving the site vacant until Florida-based developer Elion Partners bought the property in 2014.

"There was a lot of pressure to do something with that property coming out of the recession," she said. "But we were patient and wanted to wait until the right partner came along. All you have to do is drive by there and see the results."

Stephens highlighted the city's recent accomplishments including placing as finalists for the All-American City Award.

While contending for the award in Denver, the city emphasized its accomplishments in Madison's Place Playground, a Feed My Starving Children food drive that saw 4 million meals shipped abroad and ongoing community inclusiveness efforts.

But after a year of significant commercial growth and list of noteworthy accomplishes, Stephens says there's still more to be done.

Stephens said this has included a dozen pilot programs with residents, homeowners associations and businesses, with the ultimate goal of capping water use as the city continues to grow.

"It's kind of a big, hairy (and) audacious goal, but I think we can get there," she said, adding that she wants the city to be able to continue drawing its fresh water from the aquifer.

Going forward, Stephens said she expects to see more government outreach to businesses and community groups rather than letting them come to the city.

"I think we are seeing, that if we want to engage with the community and we really want to hear from them, we need to be out with the community," Stephens said.

The city also plans to hold a mayoral address on the state of the city next year.

The event would coincide with Woodbury's 50th anniversary, with the hopes of holding the event each year for future mayors, Stephens said.