Guest Blog: Recap from the MRO Conference

Thank you to Chamber Vice President, Kristin Craig for providing a recap and more information about the MRO Conference in Atlanta.

Kristin, along with business leaders and members of the Terre Haute Regional Airport staff attended the conference last week with goals of moving our community forward.

What is the Chamber’s role in economic development?
This is a question we are often asked and can sometimes be hard to answer. While we don’t have the words “economic development” in our name, we are always working with member businesses to help them grow.

Many of the subjects we are involved with are directly related to economic development: advocating for our business community, building a better downtown, creating leadership development opportunities, supporting tourism and working to improve talent attraction and retention. All of these initiatives fit into the complex world of recruiting, retaining and expanding businesses.

In this blog post, I’ll answer two questions… what are the specific services we provide to help retain and expand businesses in our area and how are these services unique?

Business Retention and Expansion
This past week, I traveled to Atlanta with the Terre Haute Regional Airport to help support their economic development efforts. In case you are not familiar with the assets of our airport, they are prime for growth and development. Many acres available for new construction, several existing hangars that are business-ready, six more under construction and a wide range of tax incentives for developers. And that doesn’t even begin to take into account the air-focused assets. They have a long runway, over 9,000 feet, air-side access to most of these buildings and are located within close proximity to valuable military assets, the 181 st Intelligence Wing and 81 st Troop Command.

The Airport’s staff and board of directors have made a concerted effort to actively market these assets. As part of this strategy, they invested in a booth at MRO Americas – Aviation Week in Atlanta, a world- class conference with all types of aviation-related businesses, including airports and regions seeking development.

As part of their strategy, the Airport invited a few community members to help share their story, in particular the quality-of-life assets we have in the region. Myself, along with Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett and West Central Indiana Economic Development District Director of Operations Hans Eilbracht joined Airport board member Bernice Helman, Coldwell Banker Troy Helman Realtors and Airport staff Jeff Hauser, Kara MacIntosh and Shaun Baker at the conference.

I’ll be honest, the MRO Americas conference is like nothing I’ve ever seen. Over 9,000 elaborate booths representing engine manufacturers, airlines, software companies and even countries. So, how can one entity stand out in this crowded field?

This is where the Chamber can help. As advocates for our entire area who are involved in many key initiatives, I could support the airport’s efforts by providing key community and quality-of-life type details. We boast one of the lowest cost-of-living in our state, have many arts and culture amenities located right in our downtown, and serve as the hub of a six-county region, as well as neighboring Illinois counties… just to name a few.
Are these things alone going to land that big project in this crowded space? Probably not. But, we can help put the icing on the cake. The Airport has the asset, we are just providing the small details that might help make that small, unique connection with the decision-maker.

Unique Services
What makes the Chamber different from other organizations operating in the quality-of-life promotion field? We represent a wide variety of businesses, 670 ranging from small to large, that have joined together to build not only their own businesses, but the entire community as well.
We are a non-profit, but with our 501(c)6 designation, have an increased ability to advocate on behalf our membership. Our advocacy efforts and engagement on the local, state and federal levels of government are key for developing relationships that benefit our members.

In addition, we have created the West Central Defense Network, a group which has come together to focus efforts to align defense development strategies and support advanced opportunities in Terre Haute and the West Central Indiana region. This group is actively working with the state to promote our community as a defense-related economic development designation. For more information, visit

If you’re already a member, or interested in joining, contact us and we can help find ways to support your overall economic development strategy, or (812) 232-2391.

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