Dollar stretching is something my husband and I have had ample practice at, since we were kids. Steve’s childhood was in Tonga, where there was rarely an extra dollar — or “pa’anga” — for him or his parents.
At Christmas, there was maybe a can of corned beef as a gift. Other years, there were no gifts at all. Soon after the Kaufusis immigrated to the United States, young Steve and his even younger brothers were expected to help with the family business of landscaping, and my dear Steve felt rich as a king when his mom would buy grapes.
As for me, I was raised by a single mom right here in Provo. Money was always tight for us. Mom put herself through school then worked the night shift as a nurse. I took a job in high school to earn spending money. The location happened to be at a sandwich shop on Center Street, just down the street from where I work today.
As we raised our kids, Steve and I continued practicing the art of dollar stretching, often by necessity, but other times as a matter of principle. We required our kids to help pay their own way for sports and other activities. We budgeted and scrimped and participated in all the fundraisers. To make our grocery dollar stretch, I chased down the best deals and bought in bulk. But my boys have astonishing appetites. So, I also had to park my car right up against the door of the fridge in the garage or a week’s worth of milk would be gone overnight.
It’s with that background that I came to public service. I’m very proud of some of the dollar-stretching tactics we have pulled off as a city recently, much of it with the help of wonderful partners. Let me mention two such projects.
Would you be surprised to know that Provo City is paying only about 10% of the funds required for the reconstruction of Bulldog Boulevard? That’s right. About 90% of the money for the project is coming from other sources, including the Utah Department of Transportation, Utah County and the Mountainland Association of Governments. Brigham Young University has also been an incredible partner in ensuring this project works well for them and for us, and so has Intermountain Healthcare. I thank each of these partners for their support and for being good neighbors.
Here’s a little about the project itself: for years, Bulldog Boulevard had an unusually high number of accidents, including left-turn accidents and accidents involving bikes or pedestrians. In fact, the accident rate for the main five-block stretch of Bulldog was seven times greater than any other similar stretch in the state of Utah. This and other factors helped our partners decide an overhaul was warranted and worthy of their support. The result will be a safer, more attractive gateway to BYU, one with landscaping and with protected bike lanes and other safety enhancements. We expect the construction to be wrapped up sometime in October.
An even more exciting project is our airport terminal. Our main partners on this one have been Utah County, the state and the federal government. I’ll be forever grateful to the decision makers at each of those levels of government for recognizing the once-in-a-generation opportunity the new facility represents. Our new terminal promises to be a game changer, not only in terms of convenience for those who live and work in and near Utah Valley, but also in terms of the very stature of the valley. In many ways, our valley is coming of age. It’s the center of population growth for the state, the tech-sector hub, and a major educational hub, housing the state’s two largest universities. Beyond all that, the terminal will be a driver of regional economic development, with a leading analyst saying that each daily flight we add in Provo will bring an annual economic impact to our region of more than $10 million.
Now, I wish I could end there. But one more challenge awaits. As we’ve begun design work on the terminal, we’ve learned we need help stretching our airport dollar even further. I want our terminal to be an inviting and welcoming facility, one worthy of the people and institutions in this valley. To achieve that, we need another partner or two to step forward. In coming days, I will be inviting a few of you in the private sector to consider helping us make this terminal a true gem. Thank you in advance for answering the doorbell when I arrive!
And thank you again to all our valued partners for helping us stretch our dollars on these monumental projects. Your vision and goodwill are influencing this region in a way none of us can ever repay.