NEW BEDFORD - Mayor Jon Mitchell painted a positive picture as he delivered his annual State of the City address Thursday at Greater New Bedford Voc-Tech High School.

Mitchell listed a number of the city's accomplishments over the past year and what is on tap for this year.

Among the highlights were education, public safety and economic development.

On education, Mitchell said there was plenty to celebrate as city schools move in the right direction.

"The four year graduation rate at New Bedford High School is the best it's been in ten years," Mitchell said. "School climate has improved and we're seeing marked gains in performance in many key areas."

New Bedford Superintendent Dr. Pia Durkin agreed there is a lot to be proud of while more can be done with this foundation of success.

"I think the mayor captured what's been happening in the last several years about understanding it's a lot of hard work but we have so many things to proud of," said Durkin. "The fact that children are the focus of the decisions we make and that we're in the midst of hopefully an accelerated agenda having the foundation of what we've talked about today."

On public safety, Mitchell noted again that crime continues to decline with the help of law enforcement's engagement in the community led by Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro.

"His approach is exactly what New Bedford needs," Mitchell said. "It is both data-driven and community-driven. He knows that reliable information can make police officers more effective, and he also knows that no police department can be effective if it isn't trusted in every corner of the community."

Cordeiro said though it is nice crime continues on the decline, it's important to keep the community involved in public safety efforts.

"We need people to be involved, engaged and invested not only in the city but themselves and their neighborhoods," Cordeiro said.

Mitchell also spoke about economic development within the city and a number of completed capital improvement projects.

Lt. Governor Karyn Polito was in attendance and told reporters after the address the Baker-Polito Administration has full confidence in assisting the city with major projects due to Mitchell's leadership.

"We know when we invest in this city and we support this city, the leadership here knows what to do with those dollars and resources and they're making things happen," Polito said.

An announcement that came out of the address was the plan to develop an innovation district in the area surrounding UMass Dartmouth's SMAST II facility, which is nearing completion.

"Like innovation districts in other cities, the idea is to cultivate opportunities to grow new businesses right by where the research is taking place," Mitchell said. "Marine science businesses make all the sense in the world in a city so tied to the sea."

City Council President Joe Lopes, who also represents Ward 6 where the district will be located, believes the idea makes sense and could benefit the entire city in over the long term.

"People that are coming out of (innovation districts) normally stay within the district to grow their businesses and that's what's going to allow the city to take the burden off the homeowners for taxes, it's going to enhance the school system and enhance the quality of life for everyone that's living in the city," said Lopes.

Other city-wide improvements are slated over the course of the year, including major projects on roadways and the waterfront.