Chamber hears ‘State of the City’ at luncheon

Mayor Richard Reno, City Manager Chris Dick discuss Midlothian’s present and future

Bill Spinks
Midlothian Mirror
Midlothian Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Laura Terhune (center) stands with Midlothian City Manager Chris Dick (left) and Mayor Richard Reno at the Chamber's "State of the City" luncheon last Wednesday, Nov. 10.

The state of the city of Midlothian has never been more sound, Midlothian Chamber of Commerce members and guests were told at last Wednesday’s “State of the City” luncheon at the Midlothian Conference Center.

The city has rocketed from a population of 7,480 in the 2000 U.S. Census to an estimated 36,198 in January 2021 and is poised to overtake Waxahachie soon as Ellis County’s most-populous city, according to data presented by Mayor Richard Reno and City Manager Chris Dick.

Reno, who was first elected mayor in 2019, started by mentioning the Midlothian ISD’s career campus, the MILE, which gives students opportunities to learn life employment skills, and praised the school district as a whole.

“The true state of Midlothian is not what our city and staff have done,” Reno said. “It’s the sum total results of all of us.”

Family, friends, churches, youth activities, service organizations, neighbors, work and clubs are all other key parts of a city, the mayor continued. The challenge, Reno said, is to keep everything together during a period of growth.

“As a community, we’re doing very well,” he added.

Dick, who has been with the city since 2007 and city manager since 2015, presented a lot of information on the city’s growth. Housing growth continues to spike in Midlothian as the city issued 524 single-family permits just through the first three quarters of 2021.

Also mentioned was commercial growth, with new businesses coming to town including White Rhino Coffee, Waffle House and a second Starbucks as well as professional and medical services. In addition, MISD has two major ongoing projects: the construction of Jean Coleman Elementary and the expansion of Heritage High School, each targeted for completion in 2022.

Industry continues to look at what used to be known as "Cement City," with Gerdau breaking ground on a 700-acre solar farm. Additionally, Oncor is putting in a transmission center at U.S. Highway 67 and Shiloh Road, and construction is underway for the Sunrider facility in Midlothian Business Park. RailPort Business Park is also booming with SunOpta and Southern Star Logistics as tenants.

Dick reported that 10 large developments consisting of 3,600 homesites are under construction in Midlothian, with several other smaller developments going in. He noted that development had been more to the south in the last several years but is now moving more to the east and north.

The City of Midlothian website is a valuable tool for citizens to see the development, Dick said, with zoning, thoroughfare and utility maps available for viewing.

Both Reno and Dick mentioned the importance of the city’s downtown master plan, which was approved in 2020. The purpose of the plan is to strengthen the downtown area as an economic driver for the community.

Last week, the development took a step forward with approval of redevelopment of the “Lawson buildings” on Main Street.

Other huge city projects are underway, or soon will be, following the approval in May of four bond propositions. They include a city public safety facility that will be located in the general location of the Midlothian Police Department; a new City Hall and public library; a community recreation center in coordination with YMCA; and several street and road improvements.

Dick also touted the city’s bond rating increases, with Standard & Poor’s giving Midlothian an AA+ rating and Moody’s an Aa2 rating. The high rating gives the city a better interest rate on bonds. The city has one of the lowest property tax rates in the area and has the ability to lower the rate as taxable values rise, he said.

In addition, the city has slashed its per-capita outstanding debt by almost 60 percent since the 2009-2010 fiscal year, Dick said, but the number will change with the recent bond referendum. The city’s goal is to maintain a steady tax rate with growth.

In spite of COVID-19, sales tax revenues remain strong in the city, Dick said,

Dick concluded his presentation with a discussion of the community’s quality of life, public health and safety, and infrastructure and facilities. Phase 2 of Midlothian Community Park is set for completion in January.