Apr 15 2007

Area will be well represented in Washington

Huntsville Times

Editorial

Huntsville is a federal town. More so than most cities across the country, decisions made in Washington can deeply affect what happens with the economy.

There are federal programs that directly impact our economy in the defense and space work that is done here. That's in addition to other critical issues that every community faces, such as transportation and infrastructure needs.

So it should come as no surprise that when Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce members make their annual trip to Washington today, it will be one of the largest such groups in the country making the journey to our nation's capital.

According to Brian Hilson, chamber president and CEO, this year's trip to Washington has the largest contingent ever - 191 people. There are cities several times larger than Huntsville that send groups of 40 to 50 people to Washington.

Hilson said that per capita, it would be hard for any city to match the number of folks that will be representing the Huntsville chamber this week in Washington.

And that sends a strong and positive signal to our leadership in Washington about what's going on in Huntsville, as well as the respect business leaders have here for political leaders.

"It starts with the issue that this region, Huntsville and Madison County, has so much at stake with decisions made in Washington,'' Hilson said. "Every day, this community depends on decisions made on funding for critical programs, starting with NASA, BRAC and science and technology.''

With those programs carrying so much weight here, it's also critical that North Alabama has political leaders who understand how those issues affect the area. Hilson said that we're fortunate to have a committed group of congressional leaders.

Hilson said those leaders can pass on their understanding of those issues to their counterparts in Congress, helping to assure funding for space and defense programs.

"We've always been able to rely on Rep. (Bud) Cramer, (Robert) Aderholt and Sen. (Richard) Shelby and (Jeff) Sessions to do that and that's very important to us,'' Hilson said.

The Huntsville delegation will be meeting with our elected leaders and other key officials Monday and Tuesday. The Times will be attending the sessions and writing about them this week.

The agenda includes a breakfast meeting with NASA Administrator Mike Griffin on Monday. There are panel discussions involving BRAC, work force development, homeland security, as well as meetings with North Alabama's congressional delegation.

Hilson said the D.C. trip lets Huntsville leaders share their agenda, get feedback on how the area is doing and what it needs to do.

The issues are serious ones, involving more than just jobs and economic growth, whether it's missile defense, the future of space flight, Army aviation or homeland security.

"It brings a lot of these ongoing issues into focus, and we look at this community's role as being critical,'' Hilson said. "The emphasis is on commonality and that is funding for science and technology programs. That's the foundation for all of the programs that generate employment and positive impact here, to the nation and to the world.''