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.
A NOTE FROM OUR CEO
Bill Konyha | President & CEO
June 15th, 2020
As we approach the midpoint of June, we continue to observe the protocols under which Governor Holcomb is leading Indiana back to normalcy. Accordingly, the Board Meeting of June 15th will be another virtual board meeting conducted via a video platform. We will begin to have a periodic presence in the office but will mostly do business as we have since this all started.
We began our efforts to raise funds to support the U.S. 30 Coalition’s effort to secure $15 million for the Environmental Impact Study (EIS), the required step to secure a place in the Indiana Department of Transportation’s (INDOT) long-term plan. Currently, it is not included, and without securing a spot, other projects will move ahead of this critical road construction project. The primary goal is to transform it into a freeway from its status as a free-flowing highway from Ohio to Valparaiso. The EIS is not a design document, but it is a document required prior to commencing any design work. The Regional Chamber of Northeast Indiana is raising $72,000 to defray part of the cost of securing the funding from businesses and some local units within the Region. After our first full week of meetings, we secured pledges totaling more than one-third of the required amount. We will continue these efforts and hope to complete this fundraising project by mid-July.
We have nearly completed the rosters of the four Policy Subcommittees authorized by the Board of Directors and will begin work in July. The object of the subcommittees is to identify potential regulatory or statutory issues for the Policy Committee to consider for inclusion into the 2021 Legislative Agenda. The work is already underway as our membership has recommended that four such issues be considered. These will be furnished to the subcommittee’s during their initial meeting and, if approved, will be forwarded to the Policy Committee. The subcommittees need not wait for suggestions but are encouraged to act independently to identify issues. Prior to submitting issues to the Policy Committee, we will have Catalyst Public Affairs Group conduct research to develop as much information as possible to facilitate discussion and help the Policy Committee to develop a consensus.
The Regional Chamber completed its efforts to support the Regional Partnership, the Mayor and Commissioner Caucus, and the RDA to develop a proposal for the Region’s ask for Corona Virus Relief Funds. It was a very complicated process, and we joined the Partnership in meeting with the LEDO Council, the Upper Wabash Valley Study Committee, the REMCs of the Region, the Northeast Indiana Chamber Coalition, and others to develop the consensus Regional Ask. We learned much from the process and understood the needs of the REMC to enable us to seek funding for Regional Connectivity (rebranded from Rural Broadband) should our effort to seek these federal funds not result in success. We have already begun discussions with our Federal Legislative Delegation regarding an anticipated infrastructure bill and how this could provide an avenue for all counties in the Region and throughout Rural America to move into the 21st Century with this critical piece of infrastructure.
Community Research Institute
Rachel Blakeman, J.D.
Review of population, land area, and transportation infrastructure in INDOT districts and Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act and INDOT capital project spending with maps
Rachel E. Blakeman