[r63] Messmer Report: I-69, SW Indiana's Artery

Posted by: Zach Weismiller  | Friday, July 30, 2010

As you know if you've ever studied a map, a grape vine, or a human heart-things which are cut off from the main artery stem rarely survive.

In a vineyard, being cut off from the vine can result in shriveled branches. In a heart, it can mean a life-threatening heart attack. In our ultra-connected society, it means entire communities blocked off from accessibility, business, and most importantly, jobs.

Last week on Wednesday we had a celebration in Washington-a groundbreaking for Section 3 of I-69, a major artery of commerce, which will connect us not only to Indianapolis and Evansville, but to an explosion of industry.

The number one reason for the location of I-69 is helping Crane survive. Its location was not chosen randomly.

Just a few days later, on Friday, I was thrilled to see an email pop up in my inbox that announced even more cause for celebration: the grant for the WestGate Academy Conference Centre finally went through.

But before we gloat about what this means, let me give you a little background.

A few years ago, Crane was on a list of sites slated to be closed by the Department of Defense (DoD), largely due to lack of industrial accessibility. 

Governor Daniels, state officials, and all our federal congressional representatives worked closely with the DoD to get Crane off that list on the last day of the Base Realignment Commission Process.

Now, I-69 will be a huge tool in keeping Crane safe from being closed.

The other reason Crane was almost shut down was that there was no industrial development outside the Crane gates.

My focus as a freshman state representative has been to grow and develop our local economy however possible. And as you know if you live by Crane, it could well be called the heartbeat of the economy in southwest Indiana.

Crane puts about a billion dollars a year into our state's economy, and most of that stays very locally.It's for that reason that I started a Crane Caucus this spring for Indiana legislators who represent areas affected by Crane's success.

These legislators have met with the Crane folks, and they truly understand the importance of I-69 from a logistical standpoint- there is a tremendous amount of ammunition moving in and out of the base every day, and that material currently moves through small cities and towns in our area.

Not only that, we look at I-69 as being the "artery" for defense contractor growth. That highway will exit right into the Westgate area-it will literally be a pathway to bring defense jobs to us.

Crane is working very diligently at making themselves "The Spot" for radar development and all kinds of electronic military development, for all branches of the military.

These will be high tech, defense department jobs.

And now, thanks to a $6.6 million dollar grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, even more development will spin off from that Conference Centre.

The Conference Centre will include a business incubator for small business entrepreneurs and a large conference space for technology start-ups.

Nick Schneider from the Greene County Daily World reported a great quote from U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke on the announcement. Secretary Locke said, "The American economy depends on the continuous flow of new technologies and new ideas entering the marketplace to keep us competitive.

"This EDA grant will create jobs in the tri-county area by helping entrepreneurs leverage existing local resources to create new businesses and support new regional jobs growth."

In short, the $8 million Academy Conference Centre in Westgate will be the first of many major new jobs announcements for the tech park. Jobs growth at the tech park will help the entire region of southwest Indiana grow and prosper.

And I-69 is the artery, or pathway, that defense contractors will take to the electronic warfare destination that Crane is becoming for the nation.

Which is why kicking off both projects in one week is cause for great celebration!