On Tuesday, December 14th, Governor Eric J. Holcomb, Secretary of Commerce Brad Chambers and the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) Board of Directors approved plans to award $500 million to support regional development plans across 17 regions representing all 92 counties. This competitive process considered applications for the Indiana Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative (READI). The total requests tripled the allocated $500 million READI budget, as submissions from the 17 regions amounted to more than $1.5 billion in demand and detailed nearly 800 projects and programs with a potential investment of $15.2 billion.
In East Central Indiana, Blackford, Delaware, Fayette, Grant, Jay, Henry, Randolph and Wayne counties, will receive $15 million in READI funding. The award, along with the public and private match dollars required through the READI program, will help support regional redevelopment projects such as housing, broadband, education, wellness, workforce training as well as connectivity and recreation initiatives across the eight-county area.
Following the READI funding announcement in December, the ECI team had the opportunity to learn more about the READI program from IEDC representatives. Through weekly webinars, debrief calls, trainings, and community meetings the team was given information on funding requirements, overall grant management expectations, and how to begin prioritizing regional projects to ensure that selected initiatives meet federal regulations and also offer broad economic benefits to the region.
Launched by Gov. Holcomb and led by the IEDC, READI builds on the framework and successes of the Indiana Regional Cities Initiative and the 21st Century Talent Initiative, encouraging regional collaboration and data-driven, long-term planning that, when implemented, will attract and retain talent in Indiana.
The $500 million READI funds, passed by legislation during the 2021 session, utilizes federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) monies. Through the recent training sessions, members of the ECI team were able to learn more about the ARPA requirements including specific eligible categories and required timelines to which each regional project must adhere. To ensure that our region remains in compliance with federal regulations, the IEDC has retained Ernst and Young (EY) to assist in project evaluation and program management.
Currently, the IEDC is in the process of preparing each READI region with a grant agreement that will outline the terms of the READI program and financial award. While the agreement is being prepared, our region was encouraged to begin strategic conversations regarding regional priorities and implementation. With the help and support of the IEDC team, the READI Governing Body is beginning to prioritize regional projects based on our $15 million funding allocation. As a part of the prioritization process, the Governing Body is reviewing each proposed effort against a standard set of criteria that analyzes projects under the following guidelines:
- ARPA eligibility
- Regional Impact analysis
- Project Financial analysis
- Project Timelines
- Available funding sources, if necessary
As a region, we remain committed to finding innovative solutions that will grow our population base, improve our educational offerings and create equitable opportunities for individuals throughout our eight-county area. EY and IEDC will review and give final approval prior to releasing funds for any project.
Beginning in late March, representatives from our region will meet monthly with the IEDC team to finalize our region’s projects and submit them for funding reimbursement through the state’s grant management tool. It is expected that our region’s first projects will be selected by the beginning of May, with a final set of recommendations made by December 2022.
As we move forward with implementation, regional and local leaders are encouraged to communicate questions and concerns through either Katie Clark (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Caitlin Hancock (email@example.com).
We look forward to advancing the significant projects identified in our Forge Your Path plan. As we move forward, we will continue to highlight our progress and regional successes as we progress through the year.