February 10, 2009
WEST POINT -- Collaboration was the biggest victory of a fact-finding trip to Washington, D.C., according to West Point/Clay County Community Growth Alliance President Jeff Rowell.
Several representatives from West Point and Clay County recently returned home from a fact-finding trip in Washington, and those who attended say the trip was a success in terms of cooperation and in learning about the potential for a new government contract for one of the county''s biggest employers.
West Point Mayor Scott Ross, Clay County Board of Supervisors President Shelton Deans, Chancery Clerk Robbie Robinson, along with Rowell and Alliance board member Michelle Easterling all traveled to Washington last week.
"The Washington trip was just great," said Rowell. "One big thing to me was the fact the city, the county and the Growth Alliance all went together with one agenda. It was one collaborative unit. I''ve been in communities where the city and the county didn''t work as well together."
"The fact that we spoke with one voice, I think went a long way with the delegation," he said.
The goal of the trip was twofold. The first goal was to determine what money would be available if the U.S. government passes the almost $1 trillion American Recovery and Investment Act.
"We''re still a little unclear about that, as I think everyone is," said Ross. "Because we don''t know what final form the legislation will take."
The second goal was to learn about the government''s intention for Navistar Defense, the company which builds the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle in West Point for the military.
"(Navistar) has as much potential to grow as any other existing business we have," said Ross.
The group met personally with Reps. Travis Childers, D-Miss., and Gregg Harper, R-Miss. The group met with the staffs of Democratic Reps. Bennie Thompson and Gene Taylor and Republican Sens. Roger Wicker and Thad Cochran.
New MRAP contract?
Perhaps the most exciting news to come from the trip was the potential for a new contract for Navistar. The company currently employs about 750 people in West Point.
"I was able to attend an armed services subcommittee meeting chaired by Congressman Taylor in which they specifically talked about MRAPs," said Ross.
Ross said the subcommittee talked specifically about the MRAP-ATV, a smaller, lighter version of the standard MRAP vehicle. The machine is supposed to be more maneuverable than its larger cousin, and if commissioned, the vehicle would be deployed in Afghanistan.
As to where the vehicle would be constructed, Ross is optimistic about the potential home of the MRAP-ATV.
"I think that goes without saying," said Ross. "If the contract would come back, I think they would be built here in West Point."