A year of announcements. A year when New Castle shifts out of neutral. A year to make local realtors smile.

Such is the vision of Mayor Greg York, who says the state of the city is strong and the future is filled with exciting possibilities.

“We’re at a very exciting, very important point in New Castle history and I’m glad to be a part of it,” York said before a large crowd at the Chamber of Commerce-sponsored ‘State of the City’ event in the Armory.

York’s speech was part pep-talk, part thank-you notes and part strategic plan. Sprinkled in between were birthday wishes, volunteer salutes and even a bit of grandparenting.

“Lilly, if you knock that over, Grandpa will be mad,” York calmly said in the middle of his speech, referring to his energetic granddaughter, who was bouncing around near an easel displaying future city projects.

The multi-tasking mayor said New Castle was at an important crossroads and urged everyone to focus on what’s ahead instead of looking in the rear-view mirror.

“Today, I’m very, very fortunate and very thankful to be able to talk about the here and now,” York said. “Not what Chrysler did 40 years ago, not what Modernfold or Allegheny did. Those days are gone and we’ve got to get over it. We’ve got to move on.”

Industrial and business names of the past have been replaced by companies like Crown, Boar’s Head, TS Tech and American Keeper. 

“TS Tech has added a second shift and is over 300 employees,” York said. “American Keeper has doubled in size and is adding another 35 employees. Crown and Boar’s Head have become great corporate citizens who take pride in our community.”

And York promised the manufacturing resurgence would include some big announcements as 2019 progresses.

“You’re going to see all the work we’ve done over the last five or six years behind the scenes truly pay off,” York said. “You’re going to see some things happen here that haven’t happened in a long time.”

While the future is bright, there is no red in the picture. The city bank statements remain in the black. York said he was pleased to announce a sixth straight year of healthy finances and praised his team of department heads as well as city workers for making it happen.

The praise included a birthday wish for Brenda Grider, the right-hand woman and possible heir apparent for Clerk-Treasurer Christy York.

But the mayor urged everyone to develop an attitude where resting on laurels is not allowed.

“In my world, there’s no such thing as comfortable,” York said. “You’re either in neutral or going backwards. And if you’re in neutral, somebody is passing you by.”

Pulling New Castle out of neutral and into a higher gear will require a shift in focus and a move “out of the comfort zone,” the mayor said. The key word to fuel it all is infrastructure.

“We’ve got a lot of good things going on but we have put our realtors in a position where if you go out to Denny Drive, they have city water, but don’t have city sewer,” York explained. “If you go to Blackberry Woods in Westwood, they have city sewer but not city water. We have a void right now in housing. In all reality, we’ve put our realtors in a barrel. In the last month, I’ve talked to at least four business owners who want to come here and develop something in New Castle, but we’ve got to expand our utilities to accommodate them.

“We’ve talked to our engineer about what is financially feasible,” York continued. “For example at Ind. 103 and Stonegate Apartments, we’re in process of putting new line that will facilitate more capacity in our commercial area. We’re going to make a gallant effort to connect this sewer line and water line at Ind. 103 all the way to Walmart. There’s farmland here and there could be commercial or residential opportunities if we are proactive.”

York said he wanted to see the city grow – but again emphasized annexation would not be a part of that process.

“We can’t grow if we don’t have houses for young couples to move into,” York said. “And we can’t get those houses built if we don’t have infrastructure for them.”

If the infrastructure is built, York believes people will come and make New Castle their home. There are many reasons why he feels that way:

• “We have a community that cares, a community that gives back,” York said as he saluted 40-year Hospital Auxiliary member Bonnie Myers and other dedicated volunteers in the audience. York said New Castle’s many volunteers represented the city’s “heartbeat” and “strength.”

• York praised his team of city employees and City Council members for their passion and commitment. He also displayed a first-place award the city recently received for its comprehensive plan.

• York complimented New Castle schools as well. “You can now get the highest level of education in New Castle that’s ever been possible,” York said. “We have kids who can literally start college with 12 credits, even 22 credits. We have a lot of talented kids because of caring adults who see to it they have opportunities and service groups that make sure our kids don’t play second fiddle to anybody.”

• York said New Castle’s public safety, its police, fire and emergency medical services, were second to none. “There’s probably not too many people raised in New Castle that the EMS hasn’t helped at some point,” York said.

• The downtown 1400 Plaza project will accelerate once the weather is better and York predicts people will be amazed at what a difference it makes, with a stage for events on the east end, a shaded seating area and more than 80 parking spaces.

Anyone attending the event could easily tell York’s comments were not just lip service from another politician. At times, his voice quivered with emotion.

“I was born and raised in New Castle and this community has been very good to me,” York said. “We have a community that cares, that wants to give back. We’re very fortunate.”

© Copyright 2019, The Courier-Times, New Castle, IN.