ABOVE: Indiana Lt. Governor Becky Skillman attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the shovel ready Versailles Business Park located just west of US 421 south of Versailles. The Lt. Governor was greeted by many business and community leaders who came to a reception located at the park. Pictured from left are: Commissioner Lawrence Nickell, Denessa Benkie, Sue Meisberger, members of the Ripley County Redevelopment Commission, Lt. Governor Skillman, Barry Lauber, Jeff Volz, members of Ripley County Redevelopment Commission, Commissioner Robert Reiners, Ted Spurlock, RCRC, and Chuck Folz, commissioner. Skillman spoke to the crowd about the importance of economic rural development before speaking to the audience at the Ripley County Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting. RIGHT: Lt. Governor Becky Skillman addressed the crowd at the official groundbreaking ceremony held at the Versailles Business Park on October 30.

Chamber honors local residents at annual meeting
Lt. Governor praises local economic efforts

Cathy May, Contributing Writer

Lt. Governor Becky Skillman spent part of October 30 in Versailles. First, Skillman took part in the ground breaking ceremony of the new 100 acre upscale business park. Ripley County accomplished what few others have, putting together a shovel ready park in only 18 months.

The ceremony started with Barry Lauber, president of the Ripley County Redevelopment Corporation, (RCRC) which along with the Town of Versailles, own the property. Lauber said the project was accomplished by national, state and local governments working together. Lauber introduced the other members of the RCRC: Ted Spurlock, Denessa Benkie, Jeff Volz, and Sue Meisberger.

Lauber thanked the former property owners: Larry and Nancy Curry, Frank and Bette Wade, Dave and Nancy Adams, and the Halcomb Family. He also thanked the City of Lawrenceburg for donating $1.5 million towards the project. The Ripley County Commissioners and Ripley County Council also gave $100,000 toward the project.
RCRC member Denessa Benkie then introduced Lt. Governor Skillman who said in her dedication speech that Ripley County was only one of 30 counties out of 92 in Indiana to have a park that is shovel ready. This puts it at the top of the list for economic development.

“In business time is money. We must eliminate the obstacles to development by having shovel ready projects.” Skillman said, “I am delighted to be here and see the progress taking place.” She talked about her passion for rural development. Skillman is from Bedford.

After the ceremony, Lt. Governor Skillman then attended the Ripley County Chamber of Commerce’s Annual meeting. In her remarks to the chamber she reported that Ripley County had received $3 million in tax incentives and grants from the state since 2005. She talked about the need of recycling and the efforts of finding new energy sources.

Skillman said the major emphasis of Governor Mitch Daniels is property tax reform. Referring to the governor's plan which came out last week, Skillman said, “The total local tax spending has grown faster than people’s income. The new tax proposal will put a permanent cap on property tax which will require a constitutional amendment. The cap on property tax is proposed at 1% on the assessed value of a home, 2% on rental property and 3% on business. To do this would require a 1% raise on sales tax.”

Then Andrew Stone from Honda gave a power point presentation showing the progress of the Greensburg Honda plant since its groundbreaking March 19, 2007. Stone said on October 1 the last piece of steel was put into place putting the one million square foot building all under roof. He gave a history of the project and shared there had been $41.5 million of incentives and $56 million in infrastructure given to bring the Honda plant to Greensburg. Honda will put in $550 million to develop and build the plant.

There will be 2,000 total jobs. When the 1,700 production jobs were announced online, there were 30,000 applications. Honda expects to hire by May of 2008 and train yet that summer. Their hope is to have the first Honda Civic off the line by October 2008. They expect to produce 200,000 Honda Civics each year.

Stone explained there are already 40 suppliers to Honda in Indiana and in 2005 $1.5 billion was purchased from these suppliers. Having so many suppliers so close was one reason Honda chose Greensburg as their site. He said their goal is to “establish an Indiana company of which Hoosiers will be proud to embrace.”

During the business section of the meeting, David Baugh, Pat McKittrick, Barry Lauber, and Bonnie Jeffries were re-elected to the Chamber Board of Directors. Since it was the 15th anniversary of the chamber, past and present board members and past award recipients were recognized. Ted Spurlock, Linda Chandler and Cathy May were introduced as 15-year members of the Board of Directors.

The chamber again honored three members of the community. Dr. Christopher Brown was named Business Person of the Year for 2007. This year Dr. Brown celebrated 25 years of dental practice in Versailles. He holds a Masters Degree in Biomechanical Trauma and is only one of 12 dentists in the United States to hold that degree. He has published more than 100 articles on the subject.

Dr. Brown has lectured extensively throughout the United States, Canada, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam on the subject of multidisciplinary Craniofacial Pain Management and the biomechanics of head and neck injuries resulting from automobile accidents.

He has also been involved in a medical/dental mission trip to the Dominican Republic for the past three years and is planning another trip in January. Dr. Brown graduated from Knightstown High School, Indiana Central College and the IU School of Dentistry. He set up his practice in Versailles on July 12, 1982. He and his wife Belinda have four children, Jessica, a Purdue grad in Design, Abby, a senior at Purdue studying photography, Mark, a senior at Batesville High School and Savanna, a sixth grader at St. Louis School. In accepting his award, Dr. Brown thanked the members of his staff and his family who were in attendance.

Roselyn McKittrick of Milan was named Citizen of the Year for 2007. She has affectionately been called “Milan’s Greatest Cheerleader” and for more than 35 years she has devoted her life to promoting the town of Milan. As a former owner of the Milan Railroad Inn and her antique store, Milan Station Antiques and Collectibles, she worked tirelessly to make her businesses succeed.

Since McKittrick moved to Milan in 1956 she has embraced, nurtured, and invested time and money in the amazing David vs. Goliath story of the Milan 1954 Basketball Team. She is now retired from business so she can devote herself to the Milan Museum. Hundreds of visitors come from all over the world to experience and share a small part of this story. She has taken it upon herself to record these stories and weave them into a book of memories.

McKittrick also served on the Board of the Ripley County Community Foundation for six years, is a members of the Milan Beautification Committee and attends the St. Paul Lutheran Church. She has three children, Dennis, Rhonda and Tom and five grandchildren: Eric, Brian, Riley, Max and Tyler. She is a very proud grandmother. McKittrick shared her love of Ripley County and the town of Milan as she accepted her award.

Ted Ahaus was presented the Educator of the Year award for 2007. Ahaus is in his 36th year at the South Ripley School Corporation. He taught math for 15 years, coached basketball for 11 years and baseball for 14. He was athletic director for five years. Then he began two years as assistant high school principal before being promoted to high school principal where he stayed for nine years. After two years as assistant superintendent, Ahaus became superintendent, a position he still holds today after six years.

Ahaus grew up in Yorkville and graduated from North Dearborn High School. After graduating from Marian College he obtained his Masters in Education from Indiana University. He got his Administrative License at Xavier University and an Educational Specialist Degree from Indiana State.

Ahaus is in the Marian College Hall of Fame and the South Ripley Basketball Hall of Fame. He is a member of the Versailles Lions Club and the Versailles Baptist Church. He has been married to his wife Vicki for 37 years. She has taught at the South Ripley Elementary School for the past 16 years. They have three children, Steve and Lisa who are both teachers and Beth, a surgical nurse. They also have four grandchildren.

In accepting his award, Ahaus expressed thanks to the chamber for recognizing an educator each year.

Also participating in the program were Private Nicholas Grider and Private Erick Demaree who led the group in the pledge to the flag. B.J. Myers sang the National Anthem and Wilbur Myers gave the invocation. Hosting the event was Darla Westerfeld, chamber president.