BENTON — Spending time in-district, U.S. Rep. Mike Bost spent Tuesday morning in Franklin County talking infrastructure and new jobs.
Bost spoke first with the Benton/West City Economic Development Corporation about a proposed Interstate 57 interchange that would run into Benton, the second exit for the city.
BENTON -- Depending on how one looks at it, the need for Benton’s looming interchange project has been growing for the past nine, 50 or 100 years.
The project has been in the works for about 10 years, with permission for fundraising coming from state and federal officials in the last three.
“This interchange will help the traffic in Benton and West City,” John Huffman, chairman of the group, said. He said this would give trucks another on and off point for I-57, and divert traffic from the square in Benton.
Huffman said Tuesday’s meeting with Bost, along with local legislators State Sen. Dale Fowler, R-Harrisburg, and State Rep. Dave Severin, R-Benton, was to make sure everyone was on the same page. Both groups will be important in finding funding for the roughly $30 million project.
During the meeting, Bost said it was important to keep the project on the agenda for his office, but that progress will depend on where the federal infrastructure bill goes.
“This is something that everyone should agree upon,” Bost said.
For their parts, Severin and Fowler said they, too, will be diligent in Springfield.
Staying in Franklin County, Bost made his way to Benton’s industrial park to celebrate the reopening of a sprawling, roughly 40-acre compound.
Ireland-based Mincon absorbed local tool manufacturer Percussion Bit and Tool Inc. in the early 2000s. The company, which makes rock drilling equipment, already has a 50- to 60-person facility just up the road from the new building, and is expected to triple its local workforce in the next five years.
Rick Linton, executive director of Franklin County Economic Development Corp., emceed the celebration and noted that the facility previously made watercrafts for a Canadian company and employed 300 people, most of them from the region. He said it was a serious blow when the operation closed.
Benton Mayor Fred Kondritz said the compound opening its doors again is a dream come true.
Every town in the region is frantically trying to find its next project to enhance its town by developing new plots or bringing in new busines…
“They are going to do nothing but make Benton better,” Kondritz said.
He introduced Bost to the small crowd gathered in a sunny spot outside the sprawling campus. Bost said he understood the struggles of running a family business — he helped run the Bost trucking business before getting into politics.
However, Bost added that he knew running a business like that is always easier when the government gets off the back of the business owner, doing only what it must and leaving businesses to find their own success. The Mincon development was something he was proud to see crop up in his district.
Tying together Bost’s Franklin County meetings, it was announced that the proposed I-57 interchange would directly connect the industrial park with interstate traffic.
“We are on the brink of an explosion of opportunity,” Fowler said during his remarks.
Speaking about the development, Matt Jones, operations manager for the local Mincon facilities, said he is happy to bring as many as 100 new jobs in the next five years to the region in which he was born and raised. This number could grow, too, if some manufacturing is brought from Europe to the Benton plant.
While the jobs won’t be available for at least another year, Jones said there is a lot of enthusiasm about the project.
“Hopefully they are as excited as we are,” Jones said of the surrounding communities.