TERRE HAUTE —
The Vermillion Rise Mega Park, a former chemical weapons base now an industrial park north of Clinton, has gotten national attention for its rapid transition to civilian from military use.
The Association of Defense Communities, a national organization representing more than 200 communities, states and regions with military facilities, named Vermillion Rise its 2013 Base Redevelopment Project of the Year.
The civilian reuse authority responsible for the industrial park excelled during the transition, beginning in about 2005 when it was announced the U.S. Army was leaving the base, which was once home to the deadly VX nerve agent, and 2008, when all the VX was destroyed.
Although unable to take much official action until all the nerve agent was destroyed, officials with the Newport Chemical Depot Reuse Authority made the best of the time, said Randy Ford, spokesman for the ADC, a Washington, D.C.-based organization.
The selection committee thought Vermillion Rise “was a model for how to handle that process,” Ford said.
The secret lay in the attitude of those managing the transition, said Tom Milligan, vice president of the Reuse Authority. While other communities facing military base closings spend a decade trying to save their bases, the folks involved with Newport accepted the fact that the facility would someday no longer be a U.S. Army installation, he said.
“We knew that was going to happen,” Milligan said, adding the Reuse Authority worked hard to cooperate with the military as a result.
Nearly all of the 11-square-mile mega park was transferred from military to civilian ownership in just a few years, Milligan said.
“In terms of the military, and how this works, that’s going at light speed,” he said.
Bob Murdock, president of the ADC, had high praise for Vermillion Rise at a congressional awards breakfast in Washington attended by Reuse Authority officials and Rep. Larry Bucshon, R-8th.
“Newport Chemical Depot Reuse Authority has earned [the award] for its successes in quickly recovering from closure [and] implementing a reuse plan that has led to Vermillion Rise Mega Park, poised to become an economic force in the region,” Murdock said in a news release.
Vermillion County suffered a “sudden and severe” loss of jobs when the VX depot closed, Milligan said. The goal now of Vermillion Rise is to create new jobs in that more-than-7,000-acre industrial park, he said.
“We’re motivated to create jobs,” he said.
At its peak, the former chemical weapons depot employed about 1,000 people.
Vermillion Rise, which is between Clinton and Newport on Indiana 63, is already home to three businesses: Newport Pallet Inc., Scott Pet Products and General Machine and Saw.
For more information, visit the industrial park’s website at www.vermillion
Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or firstname.lastname@example.org