The Indiana Economic Development Corp. is pushing forward on another phase of the Regional Cities Initiative. The program, which involves leveraging state funds and resources to help regions launch projects to attract top talent, kicked off ceremonially in April in northeast, north central and southwest Indiana. The first burst of plans involves a total of nearly 100 potential quality-of-place enhancing projects and over $2 billion in investment from the public and private sectors. Four addition regions have each been awarded $150,000 grants from the IEDC to continue their planning efforts for future regional development.
Secretary of Commerce Victor Smith says the agency is now moving forward with planning for a second phase which, if funded, would open the door for other regions to participate in 2017. The four regions earning planning grants are central, east central, northwest and west central. Even without the planning grants, Smith says he could also see a bid in future from southeast Indiana, a region that pulled out of the first round process after failing to meet all the qualifications, particularly the requirement to form a Regional Development Authority.
The first round of recipients scored matching funding of up to $42 million. In the initial push through the legislature, plans called for two regions to eventually earn the program’s backing. An additional region was added toward the end of the 2016 General Assembly. Smith says he’d like to see an end to the cap on potential participants.
Governor Mike Pence says the program has been big for communities seeking solutions for long-term growth. "The Regional Cities Initiative has sparked collaboration and long-term development planning across the state in an effort to enhance our communities through quality of place initiatives. Seventy percent of the state’s population now lives in a region with a viable plan to retain and attract top talent, and we must continue to encourage these efforts. These grants for central, east central, northwest and west central Indiana will support continued regional development planning as each region works to make their communities the best place to live, work and play."
The second round of funding will need approval from the Indiana General Assembly during this year’s session and 2017 will be a budget year at the Statehouse.