[r63] Messmer Report: Destination for Defense

Posted by: Zach Weismiller  | Friday, October 8, 2010

If you're a regular subscriber, I hardly need remind you that Crane Naval Base invests over $1.3 million per day in the State of Indiana economy. employs thousands of people in Martin County and the surrounding areas.

Personally, I see Crane as more than just a large employer or a footnote for southwestern Indiana.

I see it putting us on the map as a major destination for the defense industry into the future.

Recently, I took a trip with several key leaders from Crane and local business  leaders to Huntsville, Alabama where the primary tenants are the Redstone U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command and NASA Marshall Space Flight Center.

We wanted to compare Huntsville, its army base, and the surrounding tech park area-which are well established- with the Crane base and the Westgate developments, which is just starting out.

Major League Baseball infielder and manager Gene Mauch once said, "You can't lead anyone else further than you have gone yourself." I think the same principle applies in   economic planning; without a clear vision of the possibilities for a region, it's difficult to bring business forward.

Our goals for the trip were to observe operations in Huntsville and the Tennessee valley area-which is much further along in terms of a regional model-and bring home those ideas for Crane.

There were a number of things that we learned from the trip, but as you can imagine, I went into it looking specifically for ways that the relationship between government officials and Crane could be improved.

Specifically, I was struck by the importance of having a member of our federal delegation, whether in the Senate or the House, on the Armed Services Committee.

Any new decision pertaining to common defense policy in the United States must make it past this committee before it even has a chance of getting a vote in Congress.

 If a Hoosier could serve on this committee, they could help identify projects that fit in the high tech defense areas of Crane- and could potentially have the ability to direct some of those projects to Crane. (Senator Shelby from Alabama has been that key person for Redstone.)

Here at home, there are still steps we can take to mimic aspects of Huntsville.

For example, we need to continue to develop our infrastructure in and around the base to enable companies to have the power, water, sewer, and broadband capability that they need so that they can grow and expand.

After seeing Huntsville, our group together realized that one advantage Huntsville has are geographically "closer" communities when compared with the Crane region, which means better road access, among other things.

I-69 will bring added roads improvements now. We should to continue to work with INDOT officials to prioritize future road projects to improve that infrastructure as well. 

In fact, overall, the rich history of the Redstone base gives the surrounding areas a very "defense-industry friendly" feel.

This is something we hope to emulate here by "opening up the Gate."

We will also need to continue to emphasize a tax friendly environment-in other words, not raising taxes- which is one of the main tenets of the House Republican 2011 Plan that I've been telling you about.

We must be ready to extend the certified tech park personal property tax break for large equipment investments at the high tech companies that will emerge in our tech parks-like here, at Crane Westgate.

This will also include working to keep Indiana a defense industry friendly place to locate down the road with other ideas that we'll develop.

As always, please feel free to contact my office with questions. I can be reached by email at h63@in.gov.