Communities along White River form coalition to leverage new statewide grant funding

Central Indiana government leaders said Tuesday that they plan to band together in hopes of funding redevelopment and economic investment projects along the White River through the $500 million Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative announced earlier this year.

The mayors of Anderson, Carmel, Fishers, Indianapolis, Noblesville and Westfield, and commissioners of Hamilton and Madison County, said they were forming the collaboration to apply for funding from READI, which was established in May to boost community projects promoting strategic investment, talent attraction and economic growth.

“With a data-driven approach, a collective vision already established with the White River Plan and measurable initiatives to track results, we believe that this focus will achieve the goal of creating a regional development plan that will stand out from the rest,” Noblesville Mayor Chris Jensen said in a written statement.

Because the river connects each community, most of the same parties joined forces on the White River Vision Plan, which was released in December 2019 to outline possible improvements along a 58-mile stretch of the river in Marion and Hamilton Counties.

Including Anderson and Madison County in the coalition extends that vision, and Noblesville has already enlisted Pennsylvania-based Fourth Economy Consulting to guide the development and planning of a READI Grant submission.

“This regional collaboration builds upon our connected resources and mutual visions of sustained economic growth and quality-of-life initiatives that enhance the lives of our citizens,” Anderson Mayor Thomas Broderick, Jr. said. “Our team intends to present a transformative plan that will take advantage of our resources and strengths to advance our region.”

Projects funded through the grant could include trails, transportation, infrastructure, environmental and green economy jobs, workforce and employment centers, and efforts related to water availability and quality.

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. will award up to $50 million per region with the understanding that regions must attract a minimum 4-to-1 match, including a 1-to-1 match from local public funding.

According to the state, the initiative might attract at least $2 billion of local public, private and philanthropic funding.

Communities have until July 1 to define their region. The regional group is issuing a callout for contiguous municipalities, businesses and philanthropic groups interested in supporting the efforts.

“The future of the Indy metro region is inextricably interconnected,” Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said. “Each community has unique assets and distinctive challenges, but the success of the region requires us to work together to attract top talent, invest in our residents, and maintain an ecosystem of business innovation. Through this READI grant process, we hope to leverage the White River to jump-start economic and community development projects that will ensure central Indiana remains an attractive place to live, work, and play.”

Regional groups will have until Aug. 31 to submit their development plans for public consideration. In the fall, a committee will publicly review those plans. The IEDC board of directors will then award funding to selected regions by the end of the year.

“It is critical that we work as a region to remain competitive in a global marketplace,” Westfield Mayor Andy Cook said. “Although Westfield does not touch the White River, this regional initiative will carry a vision and ideas to look at development downstream and infrastructure improvements east-west from the river to eventually Interstate 65.  We are lucky to have this kind of collaboration and vision.”

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