Gene McCracken
Gene McCracken
BEDFORD — A new multi-county and state agency team has assembled to aggressively support long-term economic growth and military value associated with the nearly 100-square-mile Naval Support Activity Crane.

The group, called the White River Military Coordination Alliance, expects to support joint strategies that will help capture new economic development opportunities that mutually benefit the military facility, the third-largest U.S. Navy base.

These are made possible by the expansion of Interstate-69 in the region and related commercial defense potential growth, according to Gene McCracken, who was elected to serve as the alliance’s first chairman.

A major task for the new alliance, which includes economic development engagement from five counties in southern Indiana — Daviess, Greene, Lawrence, Martin and Sullivan — will be to provide positive and practical support for putting into action the recent NSA Crane Joint Land Use Study.

This now-completed study, which helps provide a pathway for positive development that is compatible with the military missions of NSA Crane, was commissioned by the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, Radius Indiana and the Indiana Office of Defense Development.

A number of other major military facilities have faced encroachment and other issues that inhibit the mission of those facilities and hamper possible growth. The NSA Crane study was undertaken to be a forward-looking initiative that is expected to help avoid serious issues that have affected other military installations. At the same time, the alliance will leverage the study to jointly promote positive development and growth in the region.

Located about 70 miles southwest of Indianapolis and 90 miles northeast of Evansville, NSA Crane represents one of the largest employers in southwest Indiana. NSA Crane operations are in or adjacent to Daviess, Greene, Lawrence and Martin counties. NSA Crane’s Glendora Lake Test Facility is in Sullivan County.

The alliance will focus on three general areas in its pursuit of helping implement the Joint Land Use Study. This will include formal efforts to build trust among the alliance members and region through mutual two-way communication between the communities, counties, state agencies and the NSA Crane base.

“Anytime you have a massive global operation like Crane, unfounded rumors and misunderstandings can inadvertently arise,” explained McCracken. “The alliance will help counter that with a pro-active communication outreach and joint community building.”

The second area will be to help sustain and grow NSA Crane’s established capacity to provide military value.

The third initiative being addressed by the new alliance is to foster mutually beneficial development in the region and create a problem-solving platform for all engaged parties.

“As both a principal munitions supplier and a federal national laboratory, NSA Crane has historically been in the forefront of U.S. military technology development,” said Matt Craig, director of Crane Community Support for Radius Indiana. “The alliance will help both the neighboring communities and professionals inside the Crane base better work together to advance everyone’s best interest.”

“We have the advantage of a talented and highly motivated group of economic development professionals, elected officials, senior military representatives and others who all hold the strategic support of NSA Crane and NSWC Crane as critically important,” said McCracken, who is also vice president of the Lawrence County Commissioners and a former local economic development professional. “We already have created positive momentum in the region with the joint communication efforts that produced the new NSA Crane Land Use Study, and we expect to build on that momentum with the alliance.”

The 26-member alliance includes economic development directors, mayors, county commissioners, county and city council members, command-level officers from NSA Crane, the CEO of the Regional Opportunity Initiatives, the executive director of the Southern Indiana Development Commission, state agency administrators, Radius Indiana representatives and others.

“Several officials in the various counties and NSA administrators have collaborated previously for important initiatives like the three-county WestGate@Crane Technology Park,” said Brianne Jerrels, who was named vice chairwoman of the new alliance. “We all look forward to this new alliance serving as a catalyst to improve communication even further and help create new opportunities.” Jerrels also serves as the executive director of the Greene County Economic Development Corp.

“The alliance has already added a new dimension of unified effort to the region to support NSA Crane’s growth, and to identify Crane-related opportunities that can potentially advance prosperity,” said Bryant Niehoff, executive director of the Daviess County Economic Development Corp. “We anticipate great success for the alliance and the region.”

In addition to naming McCracken as its new chairman and Jerrels as vice chairwoman, the alliance also named Jathan Wright, clerk-treasurer for the city of Linton, as the organization’s secretary.

The alliance expects to release additional details of its plan to support its three general initiatives later this spring.

© 2020, Bedford, IN.