Conover looks to the future

Conover strives to be a "community of choice" in Catawba County.

This means a safe place for residents and their families and a dynamic economic environment for businesses, said Conover Mayor Lee Moritz Jr.

To make that vision a reality, city officials work to plan goals and realize those accomplishments each year, and the city adopted mission and vision statements about a year ago when Moritz took office.

"Conover's mission is to responsibly grow our community while considering our heritage and core values and to always deliver citizen services 'above expectation,'" the Conover Mission Statement reads.

Council's yearly goals are pieces of the puzzle to fulfill that mission.

"You make a plan; you work with the plan," Moritz said.

Conover's first goal is to help the city grow economically through diverse industries and business opportunities.

The city successfully secured a deal with Manufacturing Solutions Center this month that could potentially bring jobs to Catawba County. The city obtained almost $3 million in grants to help seal the agreement to place MSC at Conover Station by 2012.

Another goal for the city is to develop and maintain a successful utility and transportation system.

Moritz said the city wants to work with citizens and the Greenway Public Transportation system to better-utilize the city's public transportation and make it easier for residents to use.

The city's third goal is to make Conover a great place to live and work.

Moritz said the city faced a budget deficit about 60 days after he took office. Moritz said his goal was to balance the budget without losing jobs, and the city accomplished that goal.

"Council made a conscious effort to preserve every job in the city," said city manager Donald Duncan Jr.

Conover, in turn, takes care of its employees through educational opportunities.

"Conover constantly strives to educate its employees," Duncan said. "We look at it as an investment."

The city also wants to invest in its future workforce, also known as the area's students. Moritz said the city is blessed with several high-quality private and public schools and will soon be home to the new Newton-Conover Middle School.

Moritz wants to include lessons on the culture and history of Conover in students' lessons, so the city will become part of their heritage.

"If we can do a great effort with our children ... when they grow up, Conover is going to be such a piece of their DNA, if you will, that they're going to want to move back here after college and get a job and raise their families here," Moritz said.

Communication is also a top priority for Conover leaders. As more people rely on technology for information and other daily services, another of Conover's goals includes maintaining a positive image within the community. That goal, Moritz said, can be accomplished through social media, citizen involvement and active participation in community events.

The city has a website, as well as a Facebook page and a Twitter feed, to accurately and quickly communicate events and breaking news within the city.

"I'd love for our citizens to use the website as a daily tool," Moritz said.

Another key element of successful communication within a city is active conversations between city leaders and its residents.

Moritz welcomes any citizens' comments, requests or questions. His number is listed in the phone book, and he arrives at least 30 minutes early to every council meeting.

Although some of Conover's goals will be definitively accomplished in the coming months, many of the goals are works-in-progress for years in the future. Moritz said a successful city must plan for its short-term, as well as its long-term goals.

"If a city doesn't look out for 10-15 years (in the future), I don't think we're providing effective leadership," Moritz said.

Conover, however, achieved many accomplishments in each of its departments, from the police department to the fleet service.

Conover Police Department was re-accredited and remained at full staff. The department also successfully implemented a slow-down program for speeding motorists in the downtown area.

In the Information Technology department, staffers created a most-wanted site, with the help of CPD, for the city's website. The IT department also worked to design Conover Station's website.

These accomplishments and Conover's many others, Duncan said, are profound for the city, especially with the recent economic downturn.

"Conover is prepared to weather the storm very well," Duncan said, "and that's through our city employees and our dedicated city council."