Which communities will land $500M in regional grants? Answers come Tuesday

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The Indiana Economic Development Corp. is expected to decide on Tuesday how it will dole out $500 million in regional grants, with the help of a review committee that has been working for weeks to rate proposals from 17 different parts of the state.

The proposals have been judged based on their economic development potential, their focus on Indiana’s rural communities, the degree of regional collaboration, and their alignment with the state’s economic development priorities. Opportunities for population growth also have been taken into account.

Now regional economic development officials are waiting to see how their proposals stack up in the competition for grants of up to $50 million each from Gov. Eric Holcomb’s statewide Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative, or READI.

One thing is clear: Not all grant applicants will get everything they’re hoping for. That’s because grant applicants are seeking a total of $1.5 billion in funding, more than triple the program’s budget allotted by the Legislature this year.

The 17 applications outline hundreds of projects in urban and rural communities, from mixed-use developments, affordable housing, local downtown renovations and workforce training programs to new parks, trails, sports complexes and concert venues.

“Regions could get some (money); they could get none,” said Mark Wasky, IEDC’s vice president of innovation and strategic initiatives. “But we do hope that even if they don’t get what they had requested, they still found value in going through this planning process and are able to utilize this strategic effort to be able to guide them as they move forward.”

The review committee—consisting of representatives from private foundations, manufacturing, health care, economic development and more—is submitting its recommendations to the IEDC Board of Directors

Holcomb will chair Tuesday’s IEDC board meeting at Butler University, where grant recipients are expected to be announced at 4 p.m. on Tuesday.

But this round of grant funding may be only the beginning. Gov. Eric Holcomb told IBJ last week that he plans to seek more money for READI from the Legislature in 2023 when the state’s two-year budget is crafted. Wasky said the demand and the quality of efforts put forth by the 17 regions warrants asking for that additional funding.

IEDC is also planning to use more of its incentive tools to find ways to invest in projects identified in regional plans that don’t receive any or enough READI funding.

“I do think that there are plenty of reasons why the state shouldn’t take its foot off the gas and continue to invest in quality of life and quality of place initiatives,” Wasky said.

The White River region consisting of Marion, Hamilton and Madison counties is confident it will get a slice of the $500 million this round, Noblesville Mayor Chris Jensen said.

As a cluster of the state’s fastest growing communities, Jensen said the White River Regional Opportunity Initiative is worthy of the state’s investment. He said the region put together a plan with goals and a vision that meets all the READI grant metrics the board is using to select recipients.

“I feel like we have a really essential Indiana region that presents the makeup of about 25% of the population in the state of Indiana,” Jensen said.

The region requested the full $50 million for 15 projects centering mainly on developing recreation opportunities, apartments and retail near the White River waterway, including Noblesville’s Federal Hill District.

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