It was a big check – literally and figuratively.
The Northeast Indiana Regional Development Authority on Tuesday presented an oversized check to Embassy Theatre for more than $1.7 million toward its $10 million renovation project.
"They took a pretty good-sized leap of faith," Michael Galbraith said of the Embassy board’s decision to go into debt to finish the work in hopes of being approved for a grant from the $42 million Regional Cities Initiative funds awarded to the region last year.
Galbraith is director of the Road to One Million, the organized effort to spend that money to jump-start economic development in northeast Indiana.
The presentation was made during the Regional Development Authority’s monthly meeting, which took place in the Embassy building.
The check to the Embassy was the first money handed out by the Regional Development Authority board. Other projects are in the construction or planning phases. Those recipients must meet certain benchmarks before their grants will be paid out.
Embassy Theatre renovated four floors of the former Indiana Hotel, including a two-story-high ballroom, a rooftop patio, breakout and rehearsal spaces, new administrative offices, classroom and a history center, and improved access to concession areas.
The grant was approved by the Regional Development Authority in July. The Indiana Economic Development Corp. reviewed and signed off on the decision.
Also during the board meeting, members discussed a proposed metric that would allow them to evaluate projects using a standardized scorecard. Each of the five members applied the proposed grading system to projects already approved and reported that it worked well.
Galbraith said the metric wasn’t formally adopted and might never be. It could be used as a tool in making future decisions, he said, as opposed to a strictly enforced standard.
Board members are keenly aware that the state grant is dwarfed by the amount that developers would like to receive for various projects now on the drawing board for the 11-county region.