Approximately 70 local government, business and industry leaders are heading to the nation’s capital as part of the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual federal advocacy effort, the D.C. Fly-In.
The chamber contingent will be in Washington Monday and Tuesday to meet with Kentucky’s federal delegation and key government and agency officials on a number of topics of local interest.
“This is our largest group ever,” said Sandra Wilson, chamber president. “We know this trip is critical to maintaining strong relationships with our federal officials. It is important for our community to be present and united in one voice about our federal priorities.”
While many participants have been involved in the D.C. trip over the years, there are also several making the chamber trip for the time.
“We love to have people that haven’t been on the trip with us (before),” she said. “We have several this year that are new and we have a lot of young professionals going on the trip, too. That’s been a really great thing to see that there’s interest.”
When people experience the two-day event for the first time it helps them understand the value of the annual effort, according to Wilson.
“It’s about building long-term relationships.”
Attendees represent a diverse group from various sectors of the local economy including government, education, contractors at the DOE site, riverport, river industries, professional services, small business and utilities.
Meetings are scheduled with Kentucky officials including Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, Senator Rand Paul, Congressman James Comer (KY-1), Congressman Brett Guthrie (KY-2) and Congressman Andy Barr (KY-6). Other meetings include with Department of Energy; Department of Transportation Maritime Administration and Federal Aviation Administration; National Endowment for the Arts; Americans for the Arts; U.S. Travel Association; U.S. Chamber; Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear’s Washington office representative; and several other key agencies in D.C
“The chamber is known for our advocacy efforts and there’s power in the strength of saying we represent more than 900 businesses,” said Cory Hicks, 2022 chair of the chamber’s board of directors and business services director for Four Rivers Nuclear Partnership.
“There’s also a lot of strength when you show up in DC with 70 local community leaders in tow.”
While the itinerary can change from year to year, the main goal is always the same, advocacy on behalf of Paducah-area interests.
“Some of our biggest areas of focus are the Department of Energy, of course, because that’s a major employer,” Wilson said, referring to ongoing cleanup operations at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.
This year the chamber has added to its federal priorities a $2 million request for a re-industrialization study for the entire site “so we can plan for the next 30-40 years ahead on what we can do at the site, what kind of industry to be recruiting.”
Barkley Regional Airport will also be part of the advocacy efforts.
“That has shifted a little bit after the Department of Transportation approved Contour as our carrier and they approved the EAS (essential air service) subsidy,” she said.
“But they still have a very active airport improvement program grant that they do, so there’s opportunities for more conversation with them. We just want to continue to build that relationship so that’s a really important meeting, too.”