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October 4, 2013

Chamber’s team visits D.C. to trumpet business in Terre Haute

TERRE HAUTE — Getting Terre Haute front and center before federal officials to seek support on issues such as an unmanned aerial system, energy and railroads were among goals of a six-member team of the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce that ventured to Washington, D.C., last month.

The group visited Indiana Sens. Dan Coats, R-Ind., and Joe Donnelly, D-Ind.; Rep. Larry Bucshon, R-8th District; Rep. Todd Rokita, R-4th; and representatives for Indiana congressional Districts 2, 5, 6 and 7 on Sept. 17 to 19.

On one issue, the Federal Aviation Administration is to select six national sites to evaluate the integration of unmanned aerial systems into the national airspace.

“It will be a huge economic boost to our area,” said Andy Stadler of Stadler & Co. who went on the chamber team. Indiana and Ohio have filed a joint proposal that could provide up to 1,500 jobs and $200 million in revenue across the two states.

“While the unmanned aerial system was developed by the military, the agriculture and other commercial uses are actually going to be bigger uses, “ Stadler said.

 “It can help the agriculture industry by taking soil samples, looking at field conditions, looking to see where fertilizer needs to be applied or not applied. [For] other applications for orchards and vineyards, [the UAS] can be used to keep birds off of the crop.

“With Terre Haute having the 181st Intelligence Wing and Indiana State University [having] UAS curriculum training pilots how to operate these, we have a great advantage in Terre Haute,” said Stadler, who has been on three such fly-ins to the nation’s capital.

For Hans Eilbracht of Hamilton Center, federal funding to expand services of the Rural Health Innovation Center was vital. At the time of the visit, a shooting had occurred at a naval ship yard in Washington, D.C.

That brought awareness “to the need for more awareness of mental health issues and try to have some things in place where we can identify people who need help and get them help before it escalates,” Eilbracht said.

“At Hamilton Center, we have a program called mental health first aid, which helps identify somebody who is either in crisis or potentially [will] be in crisis and how to intervene and get them help,” he said.

It was Eilbracht’s first visit to Washington, D.C., as a chamber member.

Another issue was federal prisons, which are deteriorating nationwide, Eilbracht said. “The federal government owns over 700 acres in the Terre Haute area and has already built several facilities. If there will be another facility built, look at Terre Haute first,” he said. “The federal government already owns the land, and this community is used to the federal justice system.”

The trip was Rick Burger’s third with the chamber and the seventh time he has gone as a representative of Duke Energy. He went four times when working in Lafayette.

“I had a mission from Duke Energy to talk about energy and coal usage that we use at Edwardsport, Wabash [River Generating Station in Vigo County] and Cayuga. We sit in a coal region that has over 300 years of resources, yet the EPA gives us guidelines that is shutting down plants, like at Wabash,” Burger said.

“We still see Wabash as a good site. We are doing feasibility studies on the site because all the infrastructure is there, whether using national gas or something,” Burger said.

“We are investing $500 million at Cayuga on environmental items, mainly to remove mercury from the air,” Burger said. “My mission was to talk about energy and coal supply and how we are also looking at renewable energy, with wind farms.”

Stadler added the Terre Haute will also have to address increased rail traffic within the next decade, as CSX Transportation Inc. expects to double its rail traffic from 60 trains daily to 120 daily through Terre Haute. That will create a “traffic nightmare,” Stadler said.

The group also spoke of the need to fund overpasses through the city.

Chamber President Ken Brengle said in the big picture, such visits are the relationships “that we have developed now with both our senators and all nine members of the [Indiana] congressional delegation,” Brengle said.

“We have let them know what the issues are for Terre Haute. The Indiana delegation wants to push Indiana forward, so they are willing to listen even if they don’t represent Terre Haute, so that as federal funding or legislation occurs, that will move these issues forward, they know about them and can be supportive of them,” Brengle said. “That is important for Terre Haute in the long term.”

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com

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