By Gregg Sims
Crane — The WestGate Academy at the WestGate @ Crane Technological Park is officially under construction after Gov. Mitch Daniels joined the WestGate Authority to break ground for the facility Wednesday.
Daniels spoke to a crowd celebrating the new $8.8 million center that includes conference and academic institutional space and will serve as a business incubator and training facility.
But, Indiana’s governor also took time in his 8 1/2 minute address before the ceremony to assure members of the mostly southern Indiana crowd that I-69 will be completed through Bloomington by 2014.
Environmentalist groups in the Bloomington area have recently threatened to again file a suit against construction of the new road in that area of the state.
“I-69, there are a lot of reasons to pursue that project through,” Daniels said. “I have come to care and understand deeply the future growth of this facility. I will be going to Monroe County later today (the governor’s next stop was the Monroe County Fair in Bloomington) and if anyone there can question that project (I-69), I’ll tell them about this event and the people here.
“It has always been, always been, our top priority to help those parts of Indiana that have not always benefited as some of the other parts in the growth of recent years. I am so pleased to see things coming together on this project and we’ll see it (I-69) through in Bloomington, whether they like it or not.”
Those statements drew an enthusiastic round of applause.
Daniels later supported his desire to see the completion of the road.
“Frankly, we’ve always seen Crane (Naval Surface Warfare Center) and I-69 as indispensable, among other virtues, as a single best way to lift up this part of the state,” Daniels said. “I just wanted to see the people of Bloomington remember their neighbors to the southwest and understand we’re simply trying to see them have the same opportunities for success as so many enjoy.
“Yes, we are determined, and yes, we are going to see it through. But, I really had hoped to share with the people of Bloomington, in this thought I just expressed, that we’re not trying to diminish the life of anyone anywhere, but to lift up a part of this state.”
Daniel’s I-69 remarks were especially welcomed by those in attendance, who also noted the importance of the highway to the park’s existence.
And, Daniels did key on the opening for the new 64,000 square-foot, two-story center that is expected to open in 2012.
The academy is expected to be a center for state-of-the-art training, a facility to host national technological meetings and conferences and a host for academic studies.
Several Indiana universities will be involved at the center.
“We need to improve the educational level of our work force,” Daniels said. “This will be a state-wide example for the caliber of education and integrated work. I think this will become a magnet that will be copied in other parts of the state.”
Project planning started in 2004, and has continued with fund-raising projects at the state and national levels.
WestGate presently hires 800 employees as the state’s first multi-county State Certified Technology Park.
“When the world looks at Indiana these days, it looks as a very different place than in just a few years ago,” Daniels said. “When people size up where is a great place for new jobs, Indiana is in the top tiers, if not at the very top tier. What we are concentrating on today is a fantastic surge of growth in this state that deserves it so much. Today is about the wealth that will be created when this structure comes out of the ground, and the work that will come out the buildings yet to come.
“We are about to create the conditions, the infrastructure for men and women of enterprise to come together to invent, and improve, and in the process create jobs and wealth for one another. We thank all of the partners.”
Daniels recalled days when military bases were being considered for closure as a means of reducing expenditures. He said he believed keeping Crane operating was a good choice for Indiana and the nation.
“I remember telling members of the pentagon, that you will never find a more patriotic state than Indiana,” Daniels said. “I said, please look at this place called Crane, because you will make a terrible mistake in the nation’s defense. Thank goodness they came to the right decision.”