While corporate cutbacks made many headlines in 2009, stories of job growth at several companies in Westerville also made headlines this year.

While corporate cutbacks made many headlines in 2009, stories of job growth at several companies in Westerville also made headlines this year.

The city approved incentive agreements with seven companies that brought in 793 jobs, said assistant city manager Julie Colley. If those companies grow as planned, the expansions would mean $26-million in new payroll taxes for Westerville.

In another local expansion, which was not part of an incentive agreement, JP Morgan Chase announced in June that it will add 1,500 jobs over the next three years, 150 of which were added this year.

"Most companies at that time were still making pretty significant cuts," city spokeswoman Christa Dickey said.

In September, Mount Carmel Health Systems announced that it would spend $100-million over the next three years to add a cardiac center to St. Ann's Hospital, 500 S. Cleveland Ave.

In addition to shortening emergency transportation time for heart patients, the expansion is expected to bring about 200 full-time positions to the hospital.

"We know that's going to bring a lot of health care workers to the community as well," Dickey said.

Bank of America also brought 175 jobs into the Westar development, which was not counted among the 793 jobs brought in through incentive agreements.

An accomplishment for job growth and business development in Westerville this year also is that the city saw companies moving into and expanding in all areas of Westerville, not just new developments, Colley said.

"We're very pleased that this growth is happening in our new Westar development, but also in older areas," she said.

Westerville City Councilwoman Anne Gonzales, who served as mayor until the beginning of this month, touted job growth in Westerville as one of the city's big successes for 2009.

She said she believes it's the package of quality public safety, a strong Department of Parks and Recreation, the city's incentive packages and the mix of restaurants and shops in Westerville that draws companies here and encourages them to expand.

"It's city services; it's the quality of life we offer; it's incentives we offer companies," Gonzales said. "You combine all those elements and Westerville becomes very attractive."

Also in 2009, city leaders said Westerville took important steps toward establishing a Smart Grid system, improving the South State Street corridor and renovating Highlands Park.

In October, the city's electric division was chosen to receive a $4.3-million federal grant to purchase digital electric meters that would allow residents to monitor and better control their energy usage.

The digital metering program, which has not yet been approved by Westerville City Council, would be part of a Smart Grid system that also would allow the city to digitally monitor and regulate electric usage.

"I think that was an important moment," Gonzales said. "It's just going to, over time, save our residents money on their electric bills."

This year, the city also took steps toward making improvements in the South State Street corridor, something that has been discussed and planned for years, Colley said.

In March, the city passed overlay and construction standards for the area, and over the past few months, city council has been planning for renovations at the intersection of South State Street and Huber Village Boulevard scheduled to take place next year.

Since October, city council, the recreation and parks department and residents have been planning for the renovation of Highlands Park and the park's aquatic center.

With maintenance issues needing to be addressed at the aging park and aquatic center, the city made an important decision to overhaul the entire facility, Colley said.

"A look at the entire park is a major step moving forward and a major step in the right direction," she said.

The city made plans to rebuild the aquatic center and to reconfigure the park to relocate the entrance, reconfigure some of the athletic facilities and incorporate existing wetlands into the park's design.

It also would be impossible to talk about 2009 without mentioning that the city was ranked 15th in the CNN Money magazine poll naming the 100 "Best Places to Live," Dickey said.

"We thought that made this year pretty remarkable for us," Dickey said. "It's not a direct accomplishment of the city; it's a collective accomplishment."