Olathe residents have more than a few reasons to be proud of their city, announced Mayor Michael Copeland at the annual State of the City address on Friday afternoon.
Public safety in Olathe is receiving national recognition, citizen satisfaction is at an all-time high, and new development continues to grow, he told a sold-out crowd at the Embassy Suites Hotel and Conference Center.
Most recently, the city attained the highest rating possible for fire protection service according to the Insurance Services Office, an organization that rates every fire protection area in the country.
It designated Olathe a Class 1 community. Of the more than 48,000 fire protection areas across the country, only 132 have a Class 1 ISO rating. There are only seven Class 1 communities in Kansas.
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Olathe is one of only 38 fire departments in the country to hold the distinction of a Class 1 ISO rating and accreditation by the Commission of Fire Accreditation International.
Before the new rating, the city held an ISO Class 3 rating since 2002. To improve its services, the Olathe Fire Department introduced major changes such as investing in firefighter training and equipment quality, and the implementation of the Johnson County Fire Service Automatic Aid Agreement, which improves efficiency by allowing the closest unit to respond to emergencies, regardless of city boundaries.
“Besides peace of mind, what does this mean for you?” Copeland addressed the crowd. “Well, almost all home and business property insurers use ISO’s classifications in calculating premiums. So that number one ranking means the price of fire insurance for your home or business will be lower here than almost anywhere else in the country.”
The mayor also said that Olathe’s satisfaction ratings were outstanding.
The ETC Institute, headquartered in Olathe, measures citizen satisfaction in more than 800 cities and counties across the country through its annual DirectionFinder survey.
Olathe is number one in the region for satisfaction with overall quality of city services and also in overall customer service. Olathe is number one for solid waste system quality, police, fire and ambulance services, and communications.
It is also number one of any major city in the nation in resident satisfaction with value for tax dollars.
“Let’s pause to think about that,” said Copeland during his speech. “Olathe residents expect and deserve exceptional value for their tax dollars. When eight out of 10 people say they’re happy with the value they’re getting here, it tells you this city has aligned its priorities with residents’ priorities and that we consistently deliver on their expectations.”
Olathe’s economic development has also thrived in the past year, Copeland said.
The city’s biggest employer, Garmin International, was recently given the go-ahead to start on its huge headquarters expansion.
Olathe Medical Center is also undergoing the largest expansion in its history.
State Farm is nearing completion of a 200,000-square-foot data center that will employ 50 high-tech employees.
Menards has begun construction of a $20 million, 172,000-square-foot building. It plans to hire 200 new employees.
National wholesaler S&S Activewear opened its Midwest distribution center in the I-35 Logistics Park on Monday, creating 200 new jobs.
“This announcement added to the nearly $500 million in capital investment already on the books for 2015,” Copeland said.
Olathe is also continuing to lead Johnson County in new home construction. The city grew by almost 1,800 residents in 2015.
And it’s each resident in the city that makes it such a great place to live, Copeland concluded his address.
“It’s the cashier at Goodcents learning American Sign Language to make sure her deaf customers feel welcome,” he said. “It’s the businessman holding the door for a teenager at the Santa Fe Quick Trip and giving a warm hello. It’s our older neighborhoods welcoming new homeowners, and the sound of kids laughing and playing in a new cul-de-sac. … It’s a feeling that can only be captured in Olathe.”
Several attendees at the address were pleased with what they heard Friday afternoon.
Gordon Docking, president and CEO of Kids TLC, said the mayor’s words left him in high spirits.
“Everything Mayor Copeland said is a pretty accurate reflection of what we’re seeing out in the community,” he said. “I’ve lived in Olathe since 1981 and to see the growth in the business community, the schools, and the quality of life is exciting. I travel all over the country for my job and I can honestly say that no matter where I am, there’s nowhere I’d rather be than Olathe.”
Michael Ashcraft, a Johnson County Commissioner, agreed.
He believes Olathe has evolved into a first class city, one that will soon leave many other Johnson County cities in the dust.
“The metamorphosis the city has gone through in the past 15 years is unbelievable — this current mayor and council have turned Olathe into a national player,” he said. “They’re setting the standard for excellence in the community. With the foundation they’ve created, Olathe will continue to be a success for many, many years to come.”
Jennifer Bhargava: email@example.com