Despite COVID-19 concerns, the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce continues to prepare for what it hopes will be its 18th consecutive trip to the nation’s capital to advocate on behalf of the community.

The chamber hosts its annual D.C. Fly-In each September to meet with federal officials and their representatives to talk about a number of community priorities at the federal level.

“We’re going to have it,” said Sandra Wilson, chamber president. “We absolutely know how important the trip is for our community.”

Exactly what this year’s event will look like is still being developed, whether it will be in-person, some type of virtual gathering, or a combination of the two.

“We always want to go (in person),” she said. “We are in conversations with our members of Congress and their staff. We’ve also made a lot of calls to the places we normally meet to find out what’s happening. We’re working on some different scenarios.”

According to Wilson, there are several chamber representatives who are prepared to travel to Washington, either by flying or driving if necessary for in-person meetings.

“We’re continuing to discuss the possibility of going, but we’re making alternative plans, where we could do some virtually and hopefully some people in person from our community.”

The chamber also hasn’t been able to book any meeting rooms in the Capitol Visitor Center, which makes it easier for members of Congress and their staff to meet with visiting groups.

“We’re not sure where we would be able to have in-person meetings like we usually do,” Wilson said. “We’ve made calls to our hotel, our restaurants and are working with members of Congress but it’s very difficult.”

While the group normally goes to Washington in September, that may change. Whenever and however the event is held, the chamber has identified the federal priorities it will be advocating for.

The top three include: continued federal funding for the Barkley Regional Airport new passenger terminal project; increased funding for the ongoing cleanup effort at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant site; and infrastructure investments in the areas of air, roads, bridges, railways, waterways, broadband and public transportation.

Over the course of the previous 17 years, the Paducah chamber has established a good reputation for its advocacy efforts, according to Wilson.

Being able to meet with members of Congress and their staff, as well as representatives of the federal agencies involved, is more important than the number of people in the Paducah contingent, she said.

“It doesn’t really matter if we’re taking a small group of five or 10, or if we’re taking 50,” she said. “It’s whether or not we can get the meetings.

“We’re as likely to get them with 50 as we would be with 10.”

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