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Uncertainty at NSA Crane, but WestGate Academy Conference Center moving forwardPosted Monday, January 30, 2012, at 10:46 AM
The 64,000 square feet WestGate Academy Conference and Training Center in the WestGate at Crane Tech Park is shown here this week beginning to take form. The $8.9 million project is expected to be ready for occupancy by the end of 2012. The two-story WestGate Academy, designed by Dale Ankrom of DEA Architecture of Indianapolis, is a key economic catalyst for the entire region. The academy, which is being built in the Daviess County sector of the tech park by Krempp Construction Company of Jasper, will be used for conference and academic institutional space as well as serving as a business incubator and training facility for start-up and early-stage companies doing research and development. (By Nick Schneider)
However, NSA Crane should be positioned well to sustain only a few casualties in the new round of BRAC, which wasn't expected to happen until 2015.
Locals can take some solace in the DoD's announcement that while the overall budget will be slashed significantly - on a directive from the White House - the budget does sink more money into technologies linked to anti-access, aerial-denial scenarios and will fund the next-generation bomber and modernization of the submarine fleet. The budget will maintain the nuclear triad - bombers, ICBMs and submarines - and will invest in significantly more capability in the cyber world, according to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.
That's good news for NSWC Crane, which specializes in acquisition engineering, in-service engineering and technical support for sensors, electronics, electronic warfare and special warfare weapons and works to apply component and system-level product and industrial engineering to surface sensors, strategic systems, special warfare devices, electronic warfare/information operations systems.
NSWC Crane specializes in special missions, strategic missions and electronic warfare/information operations as well as training activities for Special Forces personnel, like the Navy Seals.
While behind-the-scenes planning to prepare for and brace for the effects of the BRAC are just being launched, work on development of more operations at the nearby WestGate at Crane Technology Park is proceeding full speed ahead.
I participated as a citizen member of a focus group that convened last Wednesday at WestGate Tech Park to discuss the components and function of the WestGate at Crane Academy and Conference Center.
Among the participants were representatives from NSWC Crane; major civilian contractors like SAIC and Stimulus Engineering; stakeholders like Radius Indiana, and economic development offices in Greene, Daviess and Martin counties; and representatives from high education institutions like Purdue University, Indiana University, University of Southern Indiana, Vincennes University, and Ivy Tech State College.
The participants brainstormed on what they envision to be the future role of the $8.6 million academy project, which is now under construction. The 64,000 square feet academy/conference center is expected to be up and running with tenants in place by the end of this year.
The project, located in Daviess County about a mile from the Greene County line, got a big boost when the federal EDA awarded a $6.6 million grant for the complex.
There is a high interest by the universities that are being solicited by the academy/conference center owners - WestGate at Crane Authority and Southern Indiana Development Commission - to offer on-site undergraduate, graduate and specialized workforce training classes.
The academy building, which will feature a 600-seat conference center auditorium, will also house business incubation and technology transfer activities. There will be multiple classrooms, offices, and shared secure space for large and small meetings, all under the operation of a management firm that will be hired in the near future.
"The bottom line is, we want to create jobs," says Charles Selby, who serves as executive director of the WestGate at Crane Technology Park. "We want this (building) to be the best tool for the area."
To accommodate the expected influx of users and new business coming to the tech park, there will have to be someplace for folks to lodge overnight and eat.
Selby said one 80-room hotel has been secured with negotiations ongoing with another development that plans to build a larger hotel. There also will be a couple of restaurants located either in the tech park or nearby in close proximity to the I-69/U.S. 231 junction.
It's all very exciting to see public and private leaders from Greene, Daviess and Martin counties, who've been able to work together to transform what was once a cornfield into a booming economic and educational hub.
For anyone who thinks WestGate Tech Park is pie-in-the-sky, take a drive down there and see there is real and tangible work already going on by more than 500 employees, who are working daily for a variety of defense contractors and service organizations to protect this nation and its warfighters.
The future for the tech park remains bright and a showcase for the rest of the state showing what cooperation and foresight among several counties can do to benefit its residents.
Nick is the assistant editor for the Greene County Daily World. He can be contacted by telephone at 847-4487 or by email at email@example.com .
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