A newly formed task force for the Terre Haute Regional Airport hopes to coordinate efforts to develop the business corridor along Indiana 46/US 40 on Terre Haute’s east side..
Board President Rachel Leslie, with the board’s consent Wednesday, appointed board members Rick Burger, government and community relations manager for Duke Energy and Bernice Helman, vice president at Coldwell Banker Troy Helman Realtors to the task force, that will also include Leslie.
“We see the 46 Corridor, that is what we are calling it now until we call it otherwise, as the next real big growth area not just for Terre Haute and Vigo County, but maybe west central Indiana,” Leslie, partner in RJL Solutions, said after the meeting.
That growth could take a big step if a proposed casino is approved in a referendum this fall, Leslie said. “Along with the retail growth and with Rose-Hulman [Institute of Technology] purchasing property [from Hulman & Co.], there is some opportunity there. Also, Rose-Ventures has the technology hub just on the other side of I-70.
“This whole area is our next big opportunity to make good investments,” Leslie said.
One additional area of potential growth includes the military contracts.
“Look at the area of defense, with what the [Terre Haute] Chamber of Commerce is doing with the West Central Indiana Defense Network, partnering with the 181st Intelligence Wing, the 81st Troop Command, and looking at how we look at tech differently, as well as looking at the airport’s Opportunity Zone [which provides tax incentives for development] to TIF district [tax increment financing districts].
“We really have a hot hub here for the next big growth opportunity,” Leslie said.
In 2018, Leslie was selected by Indiana Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch to serve as a board member of The National Center for Complex Operations, which acts as a “one-stop-shop” to connect state, federal, and private interests with services, programs, training and testing capabilities that will serve the U.S. armed forces and government agencies.
Additionally in 2018, the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce formed the West Central Indiana Defense Network, a six-county network aiming to increase the share of defense contracts landed by companies in the Wabash Valley. The new group — made up of leaders in government, business and economic development — is to focus on community and government engagement, education and research, and support for military personnel and veterans
Officials will market the region’s assets, including its transportation network, education and health care resources, workforce and the Indiana Air National Guard’s 181st Intelligence Wing and the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division.
“The airport is an economic stimulus for our area, so the airport’s health relies on the health around us,” Leslie said. “Right now, we have people calling and are excited about what is happening on 46, so we want to take advantage of that excitement.”
One hurdle for the airport is bring more water lines to airport property.
Board member Darryl Huyett said the airport “has got to solve this water problem before it can do any other projects,” as buildings need fire protection.
Huyett said Indiana American Water should shoulder most expenses as they will benefit from customers. The Terre Haute Redevelopment Commission can also assist, he said.
“It can be done in a year or two if you hurry. It has to be an urgent thing,” Huyett said. “It needs to be up front.”
Attorney Scott Craig said one goal should be to gather more information on water needs and growth in the area that can be used for a hydraulic model to determine how to best service the area, either with a water tower or pressure pumps.
Terre Haute Redevelopment is already adding a new water line to increase pressure to a Clabber Girl warehouse and the 46/Margaret Avenue area, Scott told the board.