A NOTE FROM OUR CEO
Bill Konyha | President & CEO
June 22, 2020
The Regional Chamber continues to follow the guidelines established by Governor Holcomb for reopening. Accordingly, we shall continue to operate from remote locations but will now be in the offices on an As-Needed basis. As we move forward, we may very well conduct some meetings in the office but following all Social Distance criteria. We will operate remotely and hold the bulk of our meetings from one of the various virtual meeting platforms.
Efforts to raise the required funding to pay the costs of advocacy to secure $15 million to fund the Environmental Impact Study (EIS) are moving forward rapidly. After the first two weeks, we have raised 83% of the required amount and hope to have this all wrapped up by July 3. The total that we are working to raise is $72,000, and we have thus far raised $60,000. Between now and July 3, the President will continue to meet with our members to secure the final $12,000. This may be the most critical issue that we have undertaken since we worked with Sen. David Long and others to secure the funding required to complete the Lafayette Center Road extension. Securing the funding for the EIS will not signify that we have accomplished our mission, but it will mean that it is being recognized as an essential project. This will be with us for some time.
We previously reported that we had rebranded the Rural Broadband issue into an issue of Regional Connectivity. We did so as this effort is not solely intended for the most rural areas in the Northeast Indiana Region. It is designed to bring connectivity to every area within the region, including cities, towns, and all rural areas. The work that we have undertaken with John Sampson and the Regional Partnership, the RDA, Mayor, and Commissioner Caucus, LEDO Council, Regional Chamber Coalition, REMCs, and the Upper Wabash Valley Study Committee has resulted in a comprehensive understanding of all of the issues and the costs associated with bringing this critical piece of 21st Century infrastructure to every part of the region has been most helpful. We now know what the costs are, and the amount of funding required to provide the equity to enable the leveraging of the private capital needed from the REMCs of the region. Without this vital amenity, our small cities, towns, and rural areas will not be sustainable over the long-term. High-speed internet is essential to distance learning, telehealth, telework, and our ability to attract young families back into our communities.
The upcoming legislative session is going to be very complicated and challenging. We anticipate significant budget cuts due to revenue shortfalls resulting from the Corona Virus. The Governor has indicated that cuts from 7%-15% may be required to meet the constitutionally mandated balanced budget. There will likely be minimal new spending and lots of cuts to existing programs. Which cuts can we tolerate, and which do we consider intolerable? We have but a few short months to find this while other issues play out in the State Capitol. The legislature will also take on redistricting of State Senate and State Representative Districts. Even U.S. Congressional Districts will also be redrawn against a backdrop of critical 2020 elections. Other critical issues are also likely to play out as well. We have heard that many legislators are unhappy that they have not been called into session to participate in the issues around the Corona Virus, and some are considering introducing legislation that would enable the legislature, under some as yet undescribed manner, call itself back into session.
The 2020 Session is going to be exciting and compelling.