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Rochester mayor points to continued recovery and growth in 2023

Mayor Kim Norton starts new year and second term with message target innovation in State of the City Address, while also seeking to curb incivility.

State of the City
Rochester Mayor Kim Norton speaks during the State of the City event Friday, Jan. 13, 2023, at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — Growth and innovation has been part of Rochester’s history for decades, and Mayor Kim Norton said she expects it to continue into the future.

“As far as I can tell, there was never a year without growth in Rochester,” she said Friday during her annual State of the City address.

Speaking to a crowd of approximately 100 at Mayo Civic Center as she starts her second term as mayor, Norton highlighted accomplishments of the past year, as well as emerging efforts to strengthen the city.

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Among the efforts, she pointed to plans to transition the 2020 Rochester Ready initiative that aided the local business response to the COVID pandemic. The new effort is intended to find new paths toward economic recovery.

“Recovery has been slow, certainly slower than we would like,” she said, pointing to reduced downtown and other business activity in the city.

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She highlighted the fact that some businesses found new innovations to reach new markets amid the pandemic, but said others were not able to overcome the pressure that came with required restrictions.

Norton said she’s counting on the new Rochester Ready partnership with Destination Medical Center Economic Development Agency, Experience Rochester, Mayo Clinic, Olmsted County and the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce to help build opportunities.

“I know we have a very willing and capable downtown community,” she said, adding that efforts will go beyond the city core to strengthen quality of life in the city to attract new businesses and residents to fuel continued growth.

“To be successful, we must look to the future with a positive attitude,” she said.

Norton said an emerging trend could get in the way of such efforts, pointing to increased incivility in response to social media posts by the mayor’s office and the city.

Such posts, she said, are seen by potential visitors and businesses needed for continued community growth and innovation.

“You are not hurting me, the City Council or administration, but you are hurting the community,” she said.

She pointed specifically to a Dec. 17 city post in advance of International Migrants Day, which was followed by a series of derogatory comments from community members. She said such actions are hurtful to current residents, as well as potential visitors to the community.

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“I would ask that we stop finding stones to throw and instead bring bricks to build and cement to bind together a strong and bright future,” she said

Norton said she has reached out to community members in an effort to counter such posts and encourage residents to reach out directly to city officials, rather than adding to the negative online commentary.

She said Rochester’s continued growth relies on all residents, from those whose families stretch back generations to the newcomers needed to fill employment gaps,

“It takes all of our efforts and resources — as it always has — to build community,” she said.

Throughout her 24-minute presentation, Norton said the city is dedicated to continuing efforts aimed at growing housing opportunities, developing sustainable energy practices and improving public safety in the next year, along with a variety of other efforts aimed at strengthening the city and promoting quality of life for residents.

“We have a wonderful community to be proud of, and our journey into 2023 will be bright,” she said.

Joining her in that message Friday were Rochester City Administrator Alison Zelms, City Council President Brooke Carlson, Olmsted County City Administrator Hiedi Welsch, County Board Chairman Gregg Wright and Rochester Public Schools Department of Equity and Engagement Executive Director Will Ruffin II.

Randy Petersen joined the Post Bulletin in 2014 and became the local government reporter in 2017. An Elkton native, he's worked for a variety of Midwest papers as reporter, photographer and editor since graduating from Winona State University in 1996. Readers can reach Randy at 507-285-7709 or rpetersen@postbulletin.com.
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