George Pradel

Naperville Mayor George Pradel delivered his state of the city address Monday. (Gary Gibula, for the Chicago Tribune / January 28, 2014)

Good financial management, effective employees, partnerships and other factors make Naperville "strong and getting stronger,"" Mayor George Pradel said during his annual state of the city address Monday..

For the 19th consecutive year, Pradel delivered his annual speech to about 450 business leaders and elected officials at a luncheon hosted by the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce.

Touting the city's balanced budget and AAA bond rating, Pradel said an example could be found in the city council last year voting to stabilize police and fire department pension funding by re-allocating some food and beverage tax revenue.

"That decision is expected to save the city nearly $25 million in the long run," Pradel said. "We expect these pension funds to be fully funded by 2027, six years earlier than originally planned."

With traffic congestion being the No. 1 priority identified in a recent community survey, Pradel reported work was progressing on the widening of Route 59 and the 95th Street bridge project.

Other developments include new hotels planned for Water Street and Freedom Plaza, Main Street Promenade East, a trendy market at Aurora and Ogden Avenues, a new Wal-Mart Supercenter and a four-story medical building on 75th Street.

"We launched Naper Notify last November," said Pradel. "This lets the public receive emergency and community information on the device of their choosing. People can get a phone call, text message, email or smart phone notification sent directly to them."

Businesses have played a major role in the city's success, he said.

"I participated in 62 ribbon-cutting last year," he said, "and there are many more to look forward to."

Pradel said new businesses and developments provide sales tax revenue as well as amenities that add to the quality of life in Naperville.

"Manufacturing in the state of Illinois is up, and also the service sector," said Nicki Anderson, the newly-hired chamber president and CEO. "Jobs are stable. People are cautiously optimistic, and that's what I am."

With about 1,500 member businesses, the chamber of commerce is expecting positive growth in the coming year.

"We are definitely moving in the right direction," said city councilman Grant Wehrli. "When you compare us with the rest of the state, Naperville is a bastion of how things should be done. It's a reflection of our sound fiscal management and the business-friendly environment that we try to promulgate here."

Pradel said even minor projects attract attention because they improve the quality of life for residents. He cited a new restroom building that opened in Central Park last year, and showed video of a ribbon-cutting ceremony done with toilet paper.

High praise was given to city employees, "who fix broken water pipes in subzero temperatures, who run into burning buildings, who plow and salt our roads during snowstorms, who make sure the lights stay on and who patrol our neighborhoods, keeping them safe."

Riff Menza, a board member of the Naperville Development Partnership, said the past year puts Naperville in a position for a good future.

"I get a feeling that this year's going to be a good one, especially after we break out of this cold," said Menza. "We've got a lot of good people in this town and it's going to be a good year. Nicki's got a ton of energy."

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