Over 40 area civic and business leaders are heading to the nation's capital today as part of the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce's annual D.C. Fly-In to advocate on behalf of the community.

Following an evening tour of the U.S. Capitol tonight conducted by First District U.S. Rep. James Comer, the chamber contingent will have two days of tours, receptions and meetings with federal officials and their representatives, to talk about a number of community priorities at the federal level.

"Our main priority projects that we will be talking about include our BUILD (Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development) with the U.S. Dept. of Transportation, our airport (terminal project at Barkley Regional) and additional funding for the cleanup (at U.S. Dept. of Energy's Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant)," according to Sandra Wilson, chamber president.

"And, we have a really special session that we're doing with three women who all grew up in Fancy Farm, went to Graves County High School and Murray State University and all ended up in D.C. Two are chiefs of staff, Caroline Cash (Congressman Comer), Ashlee Vinyard (Congressman Roger Baird (Indiana); and one, Sarah Higdon Drake, is deputy chief of staff for Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker."

Elected officials making the D.C. trip include McCracken County Judge-Executive Craig Clymer, Paducah Mayor Brandi Harless, Paducah City Commissioner Brenda McElroy (along with Commissioner Wilson), and Ballard County Judge-Executive Todd Cooper.

A number of leaders in education, business, industry and local governing boards will also attend.

In addition to the U.S. Capitol, Comer is hosting a tour of the Library of Commerce Wednesday morning and will be the keynote speaker and a noon luncheon. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will be a special guest at a reception in the U.S. Capitol Building Wednesday night.

In addition to both Kentucky senators and members of the commonwealth's congressional delegation, other scheduled meetings include representatives of the Americans for the Arts and National Endowment for the Arts and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

A tour of the Embassy of the People's Republic of China is Thursday afternoon. A number of Chinese investors have been supporting projects in west Kentucky, particularly in Ballard County.

"They've been really nice to work with," said Wilson, referring to Chinese Embassy officials. "So we're really looking forward to meeting with them."

According to Wilson, the annual Fly-In is an opportunity for the Paducah community to establish and continue ongoing relationships with federal officials and their representatives, and be known for its "presence and not its absence" in Washington.

"We have 44 people going with us," Wilson said. "It's a great number. We're really pleased that we have so many people who are willing to take the time and spend their own (business) money to go with us."

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