April 2022. View of the Evansville riverfront (IIB photo/Wes Mills)

It has been just over a year since three economic development organizations in southwest Indiana merged, forming the Evansville Regional Economic Partnership. During that time, not only did E-REP consolidate three entities, but it also applied and was awarded one of the $50 million state grants through the Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative. It was one of five regions to receive the full funding.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, E-REP Chief Executive Officer Tara Barney said the organization has focused on being nimble and responsive when opportunities arise.

“This world is ever changing. And if you don’t love change, you shouldn’t be in this business. If there’s anything that we are constantly helping to support, it’s change that makes us more productive, more appealing, and more about location that is attractive to not just capital, but people,” said Barney.

E-REP was born from the consolidation of the Economic Development Coalition of Southwest Indiana, Growth Alliance for Greater Evansville, and Southwest Indiana Chamber on April 1, 2021.

In September, Barney was named CEO of the new group, while former EDC of Southwest Indiana CEO Greg Wathen was named president.

While the organizations shared similar goals before, they now focus collectively on new business attraction and retention, support of existing industry expansions, and advancing pro-economy public policies in the four-county region of southwest Indiana.

“I think the merging of the three organizations has gone very well. I think our constituents are seeing a much clearer picture of the impact we can have on the region. And I think that we are building a staff that can really deliver for this region for many years to come,” said Barney, who previously served as CEO of the Southwest Indiana Chamber.

In December, the Indiana Economic Development Corp. announced grant recipients in the $500 million READI program. Seventeen regions received grants, but only five received the maximum $50 million allocation, including the Southwest Indiana Regional Development Authority.

Barney says the region’s proposal builds on what it did with the $42 million award it received from the Regional Cities Initiative.

“The READI application was really a reflection of our long-term plan. After the RDA has a chance to reflect on our recommendations, we think there’ll be interest in starting to set up some of those specific projects to go to the next step,” said Barney.

Editor’s Note: Tara Barney took part in a panel discussion held during an Engage Indiana event held in Evansville this week. The program is presented by the IEDC, IBJ Media and Inside INdiana Business. Gerry Dick moderated the panel. Hear more about the program on this weekend’s edition of Inside INdiana Business TV.

Tara Barney, next to Gerry Dick, took part in the Engage Indiana panel discussion in Evansville. (IIB photo/Wes Mills)
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