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Economic Development News

Johnston city leaders consider economic development a top priority and have a number of recent advancements to tell you about, particularly in the Merle Hay Gateway Area.

Hotel Property

The entire hotel property located at 5055 Merle Hay Road has been demolished and the site is in the final stages of being cleared so it is shovel ready for development. The former site of a Best Western Hotel and North End Diner, this is the largest property within the Gateway Area with more than 10 developable acres. Potential investors are actively being sought to redevelop this site. 


City Property Acquisition

The City has acquired 5249 Merle Hay Road, a ½ acre parcel strategically located immediately in front of the former hotel property.  This acquisition was completed to improve visibility and access to the former hotel property.

Beaver Creek Landscape Improvements

To improve visibility of the Gateway Area, particularly to the nearly 100,000 vehicles that pass by on Interstate 35-80 every day, we will update landscaping around Beaver Creek which is located between the former hotel property and the interstate.  The City is nearing completion of the necessary permitting for this work and tree clearing and improvements are anticipated to be completed by spring 2017. 

Financial Incentives

The Merle Hay Gateway Area is within one of the City’s Urban Renewal Areas and the City is ready and committed to provide appropriate incentives to implement the vision depicted in the Redevelopment Plan.

Creation of Economic Development Manager Position

The Johnston City Council recently appointed Adam Plagge as its new Economic Development Manager. Plagge comes with strong credentials in urban planning and community development, including:

  • Securing more than $1 million in grants, loans and federal funds for businesses to grow in Fairfield as the Executive Director of the Fairfield Economic Development Association
  • Cofounding Fairfield's successful business incubator, the Fairfield CoLab, a working space and business incubator that brings together entrepreneurs across a variety of industries
  • Overseeing the attraction of a $15 million grain facility to Fairfield

As Johnston's Economic Development Manager, Plagge will develop, oversee and maintain the City’s economic development plan. He will conduct negotiations with developers, businesses, and others regarding the public participation necessary for desired economic development; perform tax and public benefit analyses for economic development projects; create and administer a city-wide business retention program; manage and support a newly-created Johnston Economic Development Council; and serve as a central point of contact for businesses, developers and contractors who use City economic development services.

"The creation of this position signals the City's desire to increase economic development activity with an emphasis on the Merle Hay Gateway Area. The old hotel recently came down. We've acquired property near the hotel to make the entire area ripe for development. Adam is an important part of the exciting improvements you will see in the months and years ahead in our community," said Mayor Paula Dierenfeld. 

In recent community surveys and City Council goal setting sessions, both residents and city leaders expressed a strong desire for an emphasis on economic development in our community.

S&P Global Ratings Says Johnston's Economy is "Very Strong"

S&P Global Ratings has assigned its AA+ long-term rating to Johnston's general obligation bonds and existing general obligation debt. This rating reflects S&P's view of the city's "very strong economy" and "strong management." S&P said in its report that it expects the city's credit characteristics to remain strong during the two-year outlook.

"We are pleased that the S&P continues to recognize Johnston's strong economic standing. City leaders place a high priority on fiscal responsibilities by maintaining 25 percent of our budget in reserves, fostering strong liquidity, and finding efficiencies wherever we can," said Mayor Paula Dierenfeld.

The S&P noted the following in its report:

- Very strong budgetary flexibility, with an available fund balance in fiscal 2015 of 41% of operating expenditures, and the flexibility to raise additional revenue despite statewide tax caps

- Very strong liquidity, with total government available cash at 115.5% of total governmental fund expenditures

- Strong management, with good financial policies and practices

To read the full S&P report, please click here.

S&P Global Ratings are considered a leading measure of a city's financial health.