The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, January 15, 2020 1:00 am

Projects compete for funding award

Presenters angle for cut of $250,000

SHERRY SLATER | The Journal Gazette

Nine northeast Indiana projects are competing for $250,000 in funding available from the Northeast Indiana Regional Development Authority.

Presenters for four of the nine projects asked for all the money Tuesday, during the Regional Development Authority's monthly meeting.

Combined, the grant requests total more than $1.65 million.

“There's going to be some hard choices,” said Mike Galbraith, who supports the board as a consultant. “I anticipate there will be some happy projects and some not-so-happy projects.”

No decision was made during the meeting. The next meeting is scheduled for Feb. 11, when board members will debate the projects and likely vote.

The Regional Development Authority has distributed more than $40 million of the $42 million in Regional Cities Initiative money it received from the state in 2016. Most of the remainder was spent on administrative costs, including legal fees.

But officials late last year found $250,000 remained in the coffers – money from interest, tax credits and savings on projects already funded.

The deadline to distribute the last of that money is March.

Andrew Briggs, one of the five-person board's four original members, helped decide who received the initial two dozen grants approved, including biking and hiking trails in multiple counties, an early learning center, an aquatics facility, an event center and an outdoor recreation center.

“These are all great projects,” he said Tuesday during a break between pitches. “I'm enjoying the presentations and wish we could fund all of them.”

Briggs, a banker, said projects benefit simply by gathering the information needed to submit a grant application. Even if the Regional Development Authority decides to pass, project sponsors can use accumulated research when applying for other funding, he said.

The nine projects now under consideration:

• Community Learning Center, Kendallville, $183,000 requested for a $1.05 million project to complete renovation of a 1915 building now housing programs that teach job training skills and encourage entrepreneurs.

• Casting the Junior Achievement Vision, Phase II, Fort Wayne, $250,000 requested for a $713,500 project to create an art trail where children can encounter “whimsical animal” sculptures that could be taller than 20 feet each.

• Hanna Nuttman Park, Decatur, $250,000 requested for a $3.6 million project to install six baseball/softball diamonds, two concession stands and two restroom facilities in a popular park.

• Northeast Indiana Predevelopment Loan Fund, region-wide, $250,000 requested for a $3 million project to help cover architectural, engineering and legal fees for developers who want to build housing for middle-income workers.

• Dupont Road Trail, Fort Wayne, $149,562 requested for a $747,810 project to bridge a 0.3-mile gap in the 4.7-mile Dupont Road trail, connecting Lima and Tonkel roads.

• Manchester University Athletic Stadium, North Manchester, $150,000 requested for a $3.6 million project to complete a multipurpose athletic stadium to be used by students and community residents.

• CASS Housing, Fort Wayne, $250,000 requested for a $1.1 million project to build housing for adults with developmental/intellectual disabilities, where they can live safely and affordably.

• Enterprise Center, Phase II, Angola, $100,000 requested for a $668,260 project to add co-working space for entrepreneurs and growing small businesses to a project that already has industrial training space.

• Fit Grocery, Fort Wayne, $75,000 requested for a $1.03 million project to build a small grocery with fresh produce, meat and dairy in downtown Fort Wayne.

Isaac Lee, Steuben County Economic Development Corp.'s executive director, presented the Enterprise Center project. Supporters expect the space to attract the creative class to Angola, he said, listing developers, designers, strategists and artisans.

Derek Self, director of strategy business development for InGuard Health, said it's strategic for the Wabash-based insurance company to own grocery stores – even though he doesn't know of another insurance company following the same path.

“To us, it makes perfect sense,” he said. “If you invest more on health, you spend less on health care.”

Dawn Ritchie, Fort Wayne's greenways and trails manager, advocated for the Dupont Road trail by citing studies that show property values increase and businesses see sales increase when a biking and hiking trail is installed nearby.

After the Regional Development Authority hands out the last $250,000, the board will seek additional public and private funding resources, Galbraith said previously.

The Northeast Indiana Regional Development Authority's mission has been to award the money to quality-of-place projects that will be “a magnet for talent attraction.” The goal is to increase population growth by attracting new talent and retaining existing talent.

Counties represented by the regional authority areAdams, Allen, DeKalb, Huntington, Kosciusko, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben, Wabash, Wells and Whitley.

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