18 Nov Chamber DC Fly-in: 2019 Recap
It was a quick, but productive trip to DC, as the annual Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce DC Fly-In comes to a close.
By Friday morning, the business leaders from Terre Haute and West Central Indiana had returned to normal life and work in the Wabash Valley but the connections and work done in Washington DC during the week would continue long after their return home.
Reflecting on the many meetings they had during the week with state and federal leaders including Senator Mike Braun, Senator Todd Young, Congressman Larry Buschon and more, Chamber President Kristin Craig credits the work done by Advocacy Partner RJL Solutions for the guidance, direction and work done on behalf of the Chamber and West Central Indiana. Craig also says the group went to DC with goals and specific priorities, which was accomplished.
“The Chamber’s annual DC Fly-in has always been one of the most impactful endeavors that we undertake each year,” Craig says. “During our many meetings with legislators and agencies, it’s easy to feel important and relevant, but amazingly small at the same time. I’m always amazed that despite their busy schedules, our group is welcomed and their issues genuinely heard by legislators and lawmakers. This year, many of our meetings focused on defense-related assets, mainly the 181st Intelligence Wing, and how we, as a region, can better leverage this for long-term growth and economic impact.”
Along with Craig, Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett and numerous business leaders, Courtney Chipol from the West Central Indiana Small Business Development Center attended the three-day trip. Chipol says face-time with federal lawmakers is extremely important for her position working on behalf of small business.
“As an advocate for small businesses in West Central Indiana I always fine the trip to DC beneficial. Not only do we get to bring a bit of Hoosier Hospitality to the Capitol, we leave with a better understanding of both federal opportunities and regulations that can impact the economic environment for our business owners,” Chipol explains. “We have truly amazing programs and innovations in our region and every trip to DC allows us to add another page to our story. Our elected officials are here to advocate for our opportunities and challenges in DC but if no one is there telling our story we cannot expect to see real impact. In fact one of the most telling statements I heard on the trip was from one official that said “I can tell you I work with all 50 states and I can count on both hands the number of communities that have come in for a discussion like this, that says a lot about the Terre Haute community”.
The success of the trip was also voiced by John Collett, President at Wabash Valley Asphalt Co and the Chamber’s Advocacy Co-Chair. Collett, who spent time at the Indiana Statehouse in 2019 working with local businesses and the Chamber to advocate for new economic projects, including the casino, says no phone call or email can be as powerful as meeting with someone face-to-face.
“This trip is sometimes bigger than the handful of meetings on the agenda,” he says. “Of course we have specific items to discuss, priorities and a list of topics that we needed to push, but it’s also important to shake hands with these people, have a discussion person-to-person, make an impression and show these state and federal leaders that we’re serious in Terre Haute. We want good things to happen, we want to continue improving and we’re here to make it happen.”