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Drive down and see what is happening at WestGate Tech ParkPosted Monday, September 29, 2008, at 8:47 PM
CRANE -- A "public official" in this county recently asked me if I thought anything was ever going to happening at the WestGate at Crane Technology Park.
I was baffled ... almost speechless.
Has the development at the nearby tech park been such a secret?
I told him if you haven't driven down to Crane Village lately and traveled north toward Scotland, do so. You would be amazed with the construction activity that is going on.
It doesn't look like an economic slump at all.
Three NSWC contractors have building projects under way and a fourth will be getting in full steam early next week.
By early 2009, the WestGate is expected to offer about 90,000 square feet of new mixed-use facilities.
To date, about $9 million in private equity has been invested in the tech park.
Current tenants in the WestGate include Fortune 500 defense contractors NAVMAR, EG&G and SAIC, as well as the headquarters operations of the Crane Federal Credit Union.
MLE Enterprises is the latest defense contractor to lay long-term roots in the tech park.
MLE Enterprises, with a current payroll of about 35, broke ground Thursday morning on a 7,000 square foot building -- about a $200,000 investment that will produce 15-20 new high paying jobs in the next year or so.
"We are so proud to be here. This is Greene County and we are Greene County and we are so doggone proud that Lt. Gov. (Becky) Skillman would come down here and celebrate with us what we are trying to do here as a team with all the companies," MLE Enterprises CEO of the Seaport-E project Ray Darnell said moments after he helped other company officials and the Lt. Governor turn the first shovels of dirt at the building site -- located between Crane Village and Scotland.
WestGate Authority member Ron Toon, from rural Bloomfield, smiles when he talks about the continuing development of the technology park.
"This is opportunity. We all have to do something to make sure the opportunity stays here, but we also have to some obligations to make sure the potential stays here," he said. "The right things are happening here. We've overcame many of our local issues and we're beginning to tear down the fences between counties and it's really kind of coming together."
Toon said he views the development as a good and healthy thing for the Greene County economy in a time when the economic outlook of the nation is questionable.
"This is a very, very good thing. I just wish more people would come down here and see it. Actually what we are seeing is true good management, good marketing and the thing that is making this possible -- we are seeing the Kevin Costner movie 'Built it and they will come' and we're seeing it right before our eyes here," Toon continued.
Another WestGate Authority member, John Mensch, from Bloomfield, agrees.
"This (tech park) is a great opportunity for this entire area. This is the greatest thing to hit this area since NSWC Crane itself 70 some years ago."
He continued, "Folks this (tech park) is just in the embryonic stage of all of this. It really is. We have to look at this as a marathon and not a sprint. Economic development is not something that you can get into this week or this month and get out of next year. It's a long haul. It's not an easy process. There are two things that economic development is all about -- that's jobs and tax base to the area."
One of the partners in the group developing the tech park agrees.
"MLE's decision to continue its growth in southern Indiana demonstrates the possibilities for real growth and progress in this region," said Dale Ankrom, managing partner of the WestGate @ Crane Development Co., LLC. "The vicinity around the 100-square-mile Navy base offers numerous advantages for commercial defense growth. With state-Certified Technology Park status from the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, the WestGate park can and is providing a critical leadership role for commercial economic expansion in the Crane area.
"Every morning I walk up and pinch myself and think we are so blessed and fortunate to be able to do what we are doing and to have Crane support us. To be able to buck the trend nationally and to be adding jobs to the economy, we are just thrilled with that."
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