One of the highlights of the luncheon event was the Economic Development Partner of the Year award given to eight governmental entities or organizations for their role in the development of a heavy haul corridor to connect Ind. 62 to River Ridge Commerce Center and Port of Indiana-Jeffersonville. The $22.5 million project is being funded by the state and several local entities and all received recognition Thursday. The corridor also will have a rail component.
“To say we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity [with River Ridge and the corridor] is selling it short,” Dant Chesser said. “We have the chance to build a center of commerce that’s unparalleled in the Midwest.”
She added that the connector road plays a vital role in the development of business in the east end of Clark County and applauded local and state governments to have the vision to plan to open the road by the time the east end bridge is completed in late 2016.
As for tolling on that bridge and the downtown spans of the under-construction Ohio River Bridges Project, Dant-Chesser said the biggest fear for businesses has passed — the fear of the unknown.
“Now that we know what the tolls are going to be, we can figure out how to deal with it; businesses can be planning for it,” she said.
She said 1si hopes to serve as a conduit of information about the bridges project to its members and help with solutions to any related problems those members bring to the organization. She added that the benefits of building the bridges outweighs the tolling negative.
“We live in a convenience-based society. We want things fast and easy and you have to pay for that,” she said of tolls. “For those who can’t [or don’t want] to pay, there are other options,” she added, noting the Sherman Minton and Clark Memorial bridges, which will not be tolled.
The promise of these projects and of the economic recovery has the business community excited, Dant Chesser said.
“Excitement breeds activity. People want to volunteer and participate,” she said of potential interest in 1si. “Businesses know how all of this will affect them and we want to help businesses get stronger and achieve their goals.”
Dant Chesser’s hopeful outlook was summed up by 1si board chairman Dale Gettelfinger in his opening remarks.
“There is a sense of change [in Southern Indiana],” he said. “For the good.”