Regions form to apply for statewide economic grant program

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More than 50 Indiana counties and cities are “READI” to boost development in different regions across the state.

Last week marked the first application deadline for Indiana’s Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative grants. To apply for READI grants, the state encouraged neighboring counties, cities and towns to partner and form their own regions to create a shared vision for their area’s future development.

Communities had until July 1 to define their regions and notify the Indiana Economic Development Corp. of their intent to seek funding. The IEDC has not released an official list, but nine regions—encompassing more than 50 cities and counties across the state—publicly announced their formations separately.

The READI grant program was announced by Gov. Eric Holcomb earlier this year, with the intent to accelerate the state’s economic growth by helping fund projects in regions across the state.

The IEDC will award up to $50 million per selected region with the understanding that regions must attract a minimum 4-to-1 match, including a 1-to-1 match from local public funding. The idea is for communities to use READI dollars as a jumpstart to make quality-of-life and place improvements, therefore attracting and retaining workforce talent.

The nine regions that announced their READI program applications represent nearly all areas of Indiana:

  • South Bend-Elkhart Regional Partnership: South Bend and Elkhart, including St. Joseph, Elkhart, Marshall, Kosciusko and Fulton counties;
  • Northeast Indiana Regional Development Authority: Allen, DeKalb, Huntington, Kosciusko, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben, Wabash, Wells and Whitley counties;
  • West Central Indiana: Montgomery, Boone, Putnam, and Hendricks counties;
  • East Central Indiana Regional Partnership: Blackford, Delaware, Grant, Henry, Jay, Randolph and Wayne counties;
  • White River: Anderson, Carmel, Fishers, Indianapolis, Noblesville, Westfield and Greenwood, along with Hamilton and Madison counties;
  • South Central Indiana: Johnson and Morgan counties;
  • Accelerate Rural Indiana: Shelbyville, Greensburg, Rushville and Batesville, and Shelby, Rush and Decatur counties;
  • Indiana Uplands: Brown, Crawford, Daviess, Dubois, Greene, Lawrence, Martin, Monroe, Orange, Owen and Washington counties;
  •  Southwest Indiana: Knox, Pike, Spencer, Perry and Harrison counties.

In central Indiana, the communities along the White River announced plans to partner together to apply for a READI grant earlier last month. Although the projects will likely focus on the northern end of the White River, Greenwood joined that region instead of following with Johnson County, Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers said.

“We know that even if they do things up on the north side, some of our residents will take advantage of that. We have residents who come from the north to work here,” Myers said. “You have to look at it as a whole regional aspect and not just yourself.”

Johnson and Morgan counties formed their own region, which Greenwood was not invited to be involved in, Myers said. Both counties have the shared interest in the Interstate 69 Finish Line expansion on the west side.

Project proposals are not final for the White River region, Myers said. The region is mostly led by Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness and Noblesville Mayor Chris Jensen. Noblesville hired Pennsylvania-based Fourth Economy Consulting to guide the submission process to IEDC.

In northeast Indiana, its 11-county regional development authority is open for project proposals. Like most of the regions, it will work with community stakeholders, local officials and economic development commissions, said Ryan Twiss, Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership vice president of talent initiatives.

Projects funded through the grant should enhance quality of life in the region, so proposals could include trails, transportation, infrastructure, environmental and green economy jobs, workforce and employment centers, and efforts related to water availability and quality.

Northeast Indiana is looking for projects that promote growth in the workforce, downtown vibrancy and entrepreneurship and innovation.

“What’s unique about the READI program is not only does it look at those bricks-and-sticks-type economic development projects, but it also looks at some of the programming associated with that,” said Michael Galbraith, Northeast Indiana Regional Development Authority administrator.

Next, all identified regions have until Aug. 31 to submit strategic project plans to the IEDC for consideration. IEDC board members are expected to make final funding decisions by the end of the year.

Several of the regions are accepting form submissions for project ideas that would fit the program’s expectations. Northeast Indiana and Indiana Uplands opened up project proposal forms online.

The IEDC has said READI is expected to attract at least $2 billion of local public, private and philanthropic match funding.

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