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Local leaders recap annual capital visit to D.C.

Several officials and businesses from Eastern Idaho returned Thursday from the annual “Community to Capital” event in Washington, D.C.

For more than a decade, local officials have traveled to the nation’s capital to lobby on behalf of eastern Idaho communities.

Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper joined Ammon Councilman Sean Coletti, GreaterIdahoFallsChamber of Commerce CEO Michelle Holt,GrowIdahoFalls CEO Linda Martin, Partnership for Science and Technology CEO Leslie Jones-Huddleston, Stoller Newport News Nuclear Contracts Manager Dale Lundblade, Melaleuca Vice President of Corporate Relations Damond Watkins andIdahoTreatment Group Communications Director Rick Dale on the trip to Capitol Hill to meet with decision-makers face to face.

Sen. Mike Crapo, Sen. Jim Risch and Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho discussed national issues such as advocacy, commerce and energy that could affect Eastern Idaho. Casper said it’s important for the region to stay in tune with national affairs and provide insight into how these issues should be handled on the local level.

“It’s hard to really get down to what’s important in an email. Meeting face to face, that sincerity and that level of commitment means a lot,” said Casper. “Without exception, every office either thanked us for coming or took a moment as we concluded our conversation to tell us why it was so valuable to them to have us there.”

This was one of the first years that the agenda didn’t focus strictly on energy topics, but expanded beyond issues that are centered around the Idaho National Laboratory and site clean up project.

“The laboratory contributes more than 25 percent of our local economy,” said Casper. “But there is another 75 percent from individuals and businesses that we also have to keep in mind. The site offers great value, research and depth to our community, but we want people to understand that we have more to offer.”

During discussions with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, local officials were given insight of national economic development and the push toward international trade and advocacy.

“It was building that regionalism and that partnership. It was helping us as a community know, not just what happens in Idaho Falls or Ammon or Bonneville County, but Eastern Idaho as a whole,” said Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce CEO Michelle Holt. “With regards to the U.S. Chamber, those discussions really helped us look at issues that are on a national scale that we may not have been looking at locally, but do trickle down and affect our businesses.”

But even with a broader topic base, the INL and site cleanup were still key talking points during the trip. Officials touched on a recent DOE hot-button issue that has stemmed from theIdahoCleanup Project Core contract, worth several billion dollars over the next five years. IdahoTreatment Group Communications Director Rick Dale said project officials hope to bid for a future site clean-up contract that could bring revenue and mass employment to the region.

“It was nice to be able to talk to decision makers about the incredible 650-person workforce that has shipped more transuranic waste out of any site in the DOE complex,” said Dale. “We could have a role in helping the DOE with future missions in cleaning up the nation’s transuranic nuclear waste.”

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