In delivering his 12th State of the City address March 18 at the Hilliard Municipal Building, Mayor Don Schonhardt outlined the city's economic growth since his first year as mayor in 2004 as well as recent successes.

In delivering his 12th State of the City address March 18 at the Hilliard Municipal Building, Mayor Don Schonhardt outlined the city's economic growth since his first year as mayor in 2004 as well as recent successes.

"We started behind the eight-ball" in 2004, Schonhardt said, alluding to the city's previous administration. "The development and business communities were not interested in working with a city that had adopted a no-growth policy."

Schonhardt also used his 25-minute address as a primer on the significance of jobs to the city because of income-tax revenue, the "lifeblood" of the general fund, he said, and as a platform to extol the benefits of tax-increment-financing districts.

Schonhardt said the successful effort early in his first term to keep BMW Financial Services in the city was the start of Hilliard's income-tax base increasing by 70 percent since 2003.

The first use of a TIF, Schonhardt said, was to fund the infrastructure for the development of Trueman Boulevard and allowed the city "to become a true competitor for new commercial development in central Ohio."

The TIF, Schonhardt said, was critical to developing Trueman Boulevard.

Schonhardt outlined changes made in TIF policy in the past decade, including the requirement for developers to initially pay development costs up front but, he said, city leaders have been selective in the use of TIFs and would continue to use them.

"We have been prudent and have effectively used this tool, and the results are in every corner of the city. ... Whether you focus on quality of life, maintenance and growth of property values or quality of government services, we are much better off in each and every category (than we were 12 years ago)," Schonhardt said.

"This is by no means a signal to relax. ... As our economic development needs to evolve, so, too, will the tools we employ to grow our community."

Schonhardt concluded his address with a summary of the city's finances.

"The strength is truly in the numbers," said Schonhardt, underscoring the theme of his State of the City address.

From 2004 to 2014, the city has invested more than $131 million in capital improvements and added more than 6,000 jobs through expansions at Verizon Wireless, Equity and JD Equipment, to name a few of the city's largest employers, Schonhardt said.

He also cited $105 million worth of new construction underway and $95 million more in the planning stages, including a new hotel on Park Mill Run Drive.

"Through good governance and responsible stewardship of public funds, Hilliard is a much better place to live, work and play than it was 12 years ago ... and it continues to get better and stronger with each passing year," Schonhardt said.