Fly in and fly out, a whirlwind trip to D.C.

As part of your Chamber’s advocacy mission, we’re happy to collaborate with our colleagues across the region to present a unified front on finding ways to make the area better.
For the second time this year, I joined others from Pike, Jackson, and Scioto counties on a one-day, whirlwind trip to Washington, D.C. to tout out successes, help bring light to our challenges and look to the future. We flew out of John Glenn International Airport at 8 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4 bound for the nation’s capital and meetings with our congressmen, the Department of Energy, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The mission is simple. Keep up the great things going on around the region, increase the communication between the area and its leaders, and find resources to help grow into a thriving part of the state. We’ve planned on doing them semi-annually to stay in touch and, honestly, to help increase our local ties as much as our federal ones.

Within a few hours of landing, our group was at the U.S. Chamber office, getting information to help grow small businesses on the ground in Ross County. From the Main Street Leaders program to the Chamber Foundation, we left with a wealth of information that can help us all.

After a quick lunch, we arrived at the Department of Energy, a pivotal stop to clean up the former bomb-making plant in Piketon and help spur economic development on the remediated land. It was great to meet William “Ike” White, who began oversight of the Office of Environmental Management in June, and his team. We left feeling their commitment to the cleanup of the site is still firm. I was most encouraged by their commitment to the Community Commitment component of the current cleanup contract. That component, placed into the contract by Fluor in 2011, has turned $4 million in grants into more than $100 million in matching funds to help spur economic development. Our message was clear: We need both in southern Ohio to help it grow and begin to thrive.

Then it was off to Capitol Hill for meetings with U.S. Reps Brad Wenstrup and Bill Johnson and both of Ohio’s senators, Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown. We had candid discussions with each, touting our successes (the improvements in downtown Chillicothe and Portsmouth, more than $200 million in expansion and new construction in some of Ross County’s biggest employers, the $150 million expansion at Bellisio Foods in Jackson) and some of our biggest challenges (lack of broadband – a basic business necessity; regional low college attendance rates; and workforce issues related to recovering addicts and transportation).

By the time we arrived at the Reagan National Airport and did a quick debrief, it was clear we’d opened some eyes about the great things going on in southern Ohio. Most importantly, we left with possible solutions to some significant barriers. Our efforts to advocate for our region (and mine specifically to advocate for Ross County businesses) were not in vain. We’ll be adding value to our members and community through the programs we learned about last week.

That’s the goal of our advocacy fly-in program — one we will continue to refine and strengthen in 2020.