In her look at the year past and the year ahead on Wednesday, some may say that Rome Mayor Jacqueline M. Izzo gave too rosy an assessment of the bleak year that was 2020 and the coming hopes of 2021.
There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic brought misery and suffering to the Mohawk Valley. More than 220 county residents died of COVID-related issues while nearly 12,000 people tested positive with thousands hospitalized.
For those who have suffered such loss, we know that there is no silver lining to the virus’s brutal impact. We are, however, deeply appreciative of the region’s hospitals and health care workers who have demonstrated extraordinary skill and compassion as we hope for the promising benefits of the recently released COVID vaccinations.
Businesses have been changed, perhaps forever, with dozens of local businesses forced to suspend operations indefinitely or close entirely, some for good. And yet, most soldier on, trying desperately to find new ways of doing more with less and, in some cases, maintaining or expanding operations, demonstrating what we have known for years — that sound management and an exceptional workforce can often overcome almost insurmountable challenges.
As we look ahead to 2021, we think that Mayor Izzo is justified in her optimism of what the future may hold for Rome and the region.
We are heartened by the early success of the Air City Lofts on the Griffiss Business and Technology Park, which, as Izzo says, “opened for residents on November 15 with residents moving in everyday, commercial spaces being readied for occupancy early next year, and foundations in place for phase two of the mixed use development.”
Likewise, the Orgill Distribution Center’s construction remains on target and is on track to hire 225 people as the facility comes on line later in 2021. Also, Izzo adds, “the Dewitt Clinton Apartments opened in June in South Rome and is fully occupied bringing much needed new, modern housing to South Rome and the downtown area.”
The city’s $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative is moving along with new businesses planned and restoration projects taking shape, particularly at the Capitol Theatre which is getting new seating and a new marquee, both reminesent of the late 1920’s.
On Griffiss, federal investment in Rome Lab remains solid and Innovare, the open collaborative campus bringing together the lab’s scientists and technicians with business and academia, has had a pair of successful events leading to the award of a host of grants and awards for potential commercial use and development of the lab’s cutting edge scientific achievements.
We have cautious optimism that our local governments and school districts will continue to find ways to maintain services without overburdening taxpayers. It is essential that state officials, while they grapple with a projected $13.3 billion budget deficit, does not devastate local communities as it seeks to close this gap.
“COVID forced us to alter the way we conduct day to day business as a city government shifting to telework, implementing social distancing practices throughout our many, diversified departments and dealing with staffing issues as the virus has taken greater hold of our geographic area in the last several weeks,” Izzo said. “We have found our employees to be extremely resilient and are very proud that with all these new restrictions imposed upon us that we have not missed a beat in providing services to our residents and moving our community forward with new business ventures.”
We commend, not just the city of Rome, but all local communities and school districts, that have found not just a way through the darkness of 2020 but look forward — and have planned — for a brighter 2021.