Work continued Friday on the convention center downtown, with crews drilling and filling some of the hundreds of pilings needed to support the $32 million project. Little did the crew know but as they worked before noon Friday, they had an audience with Indiana Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, who watched for a moment from the third floor of the Terre Haute Children’s Museum.
In a sit-down facilitated by local public relations and lobbying firm RJL Solutions, Crouch met with representatives from the construction trades, Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett and Indiana Sen. Jon Ford to talk about all the projects currently underway in West Central Indiana. The group estimates $500 million is being invested in current projects throughout the Wabash Valley. Bill Hann Jr., president of the Wabash Valley Contractors Association and vice president at Hannig Construction Inc., said the construction boom is not just good for business in the short term, but good for the people of West Central Indiana for years to come.
“Just outside the window here you can see an enormous amount of work going on,” Hann said. “... You look out east at the coming casino project and the VA hospital that is going to be such a huge blessing for so many of our veterans who have been going to either Danville or Indianapolis.”
Crouch said renewed investment in the area is likely borne of strong leadership and collaboration between public and private entities.
“The kind of explosion of growth you’re seeing here in Terre Haute and the Wabash Valley is due to the strong leadership, especially in Mayor Bennett and Senator Ford,” Crouch said.“You have to have relationships and that leadership at the local and state level to get things done. And I think that is what you have and is somewhat responsible for your success.” Not wanting to draw direct comparisons to other locales around the state, Crouch said Terre Haute has been on an impressive roll and is helping drive growth in the state.
“It’s a great time to be in Terre Haute,” she said.
Ford attributes the area’s recent successes to local stakeholders visualizing what they want for the community and then advocating for them at the statehouse. “We have a community that has wanted opportunities and have gone after them when they’ve come along,” Ford said. “When we had the convention center and casino opportunities, folks came to the statehouse to build relationships and that’s what has really impressed me.
“... And we’re just beginning, I think there are a lot of opportunities we’re still chasing down.”
Bennett said as much, but also stressed the importance of seizing on the region’s momentum and not being content with what’s been achieved thus far. “We have a lot of positive things happening for us, and I think there are more on the way,” Bennett said after referring to the prospect of Terre Haute being a finalist to become home to the Air Force’s F-35 Foreign Military Sales Training Center.
Crouch also offered Bennett, Ford, Hann and others a chance to voice what regulations they think might pose as unnecessary roadblocks moving forward, especially given the budget issues Indiana faces as a result of COVID-19. Ford said he’d like to see Indiana peel back some of its restrictions on divisible load weight limits, saying it unnecessarily burdens some industries.
He’s been arguing the issue since he took the idea to summer study committee in 2019. Some other industries, including rail, oppose allowing higher weight limits for tractor trailers.Bennett, Hann and Mark Unger, president of Freitag-Weinhardt Inc., said easing some restrictions placed on construction companies and municipal governments might allow for some savings.
Article and images attributed to Tribune-Star.