The Journal Gazette
Monday, October 04, 2021 1:00 am

Region applying for $50 million

130 projects to help workforce, downtown, innovation

SHERRY SLATER | The Journal Gazette

A new college dormitory, an airport terminal expansion, a full-service grocery, more riverfront development and hundreds of apartments are among the 130 projects included in northeast Indiana's bid for a state READI grant.

The Northeast Indiana Regional Development Authority last week submitted its final application for a portion of $500 million available through the Indiana Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative, also called READI.

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. will decide which 18 regions' proposals will be funded. At least 10 are expected. The northeast Indiana region comprises Adams, Allen, DeKalb, Huntington, LaGrange, Kosciusko, Noble, Steuben, Wabash, Wells and Whitley counties.

Northeast Indiana's READI submission includes anticipated outcomes, timelines, stakeholders and financial details for each project. The project-by-project breakdown includes funding sources and sustainability plans.

Each project is also identified as focusing on workforce growth, downtown vibrancy or entrepreneurship and innovation, the region's three targeted goals.

The submission highlights 30 projects that illustrate those priorities, but they aren't ranked and don't have a greater chance of getting funded than the other 100 on the full list, said Mike Galbraith, who supports the Regional Development Authority as a consultant. Even projects not included in the submission could ultimately be funded, he said. 

Northeast Indiana's pitch for $50 million is a 308-page submission, titled “Growing with Vision.”

The document includes a review of the region's success deploying a $42 million Regional Cities Initiative grant received in 2015 after officials submitted an application titled “The Road to One Million.”

“Since the Road to One Million plan was implemented, 28 transformative projects have been approved by the IEDC for funding, resulting in an investment of $40.8 million from the Regional Cities Initiative, with a total cost across all projects of nearly $265 million,” the new submission states.

The document also stresses northeast Indiana officials' cooperative spirit. The submission incorporates letters of support from multiple groups, including the Mayors and Commissioners Caucus, the 11 local economic development organizations of northeast Indiana, the Regional Chamber of Northeast Indiana and the Northeast Indiana Council of CEOs.

The Regional Development Authority, the board that evaluated and accepted or rejected applications for a piece of the $42 million from the Regional Cities Initiative, would do the same if the region receives a READI grant. As a result, the group has established criteria and would be ready to process grant applications immediately.

“Having the right structure in place can be the key to a successful implementation versus one that stalls out,” the document states.

Board members' task wouldn't be an easy one. In all, the 130 projects ask for more than $129 million in READI funding, more than twice the $50 million maximum award to any one region.

The proposed projects, which would also tap private and local government funding sources, add up to an eye-popping $1.45 billion, according to The Journal Gazette's calculations.

Among the projects included in the READI grant submission:

• A sewer expansion in north Ossian.

• Redevelopment of an empty grocery in downtown Warsaw, creating 150 market-rate apartments, commercial space and parking.

• Construction of 39 market-rate apartments in duplexes and triplexes in Wells County.

• Hiring of a full-time employee at Grow Wabash County to promote growth, diversity and inclusion in Wabash County and the region.

• Building and operating a full-service grocery store in southeast Fort Wayne, which is classified a food desert.

• Construction of a mixed-income, mixed-use neighborhood on 20 acres of city-owned property in southeast Fort Wayne.

• Completion of design work to expand the east portion of Fort Wayne International Airport's passenger terminal.

• Construction of a 300- to 350-bed dormitory on the Purdue University Fort Wayne campus.

• Improvement of accessibility to Arts United Center and improvement of the theater's performance space.

• Construction of housing developments in Shipshewana, Topeka and LaGrange – all in LaGrange County.

The Regional Development Authority will be supported by Regional Partnership staff and contractors, who do administrative, communications, accounting and other functions for the board.

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