The recipients were announced during a meeting of the Indiana Economic Development Corp. Board of Directors. (IIB Photo/Gerry Dick)

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. has announced the grant recipients in the $500 million Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative. The IEDC Board of Directors has approved recommendations to provide grants to all 17 regions representing every Indiana county, including five regions receiving the maximum $50 million allocation. The state says a total of more than 800 projects were proposed across all regions, which could lead to more than $15 billion in total matching investments.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, IEDC Senior Vice President of Community Affairs Mark Wasky said community engagement in the program was key to its success.

“We know how important a focus on investing in quality of place is in our ability to continue our economic growth,” said Wasky. “So, helping regions across the state, hopefully touching every community in Indiana, is really exciting for us in terms of the potential that it can bring.”

Wasky also highlighted the willingness of regions that had previously participated in the Regional Cities Initiative in 2015 to support other communities that are starting down the road of regional collaboration and share best practices.

“That type of a mindset is really in line with this concept of regionalism itself in that urban areas of a region are going to benefit with healthy rural areas and vice versa, and I think the same would apply for healthy regions around Indiana,” he said.

The grant recipients include:

Northeast: Northeast IN RDA$          50,000,000
Southern IN: Our Southern Indiana RDA$          50,000,000
South Bend – Elkhart: Northern Indiana RDA$          50,000,000
Evansville: SW IN RDA (SWIRDA)$          50,000,000
Northwest: Northwest IN Forum$          50,000,000
South Central Indiana Talent Region$          30,000,000
Greater Lafayette Region$          30,000,000
The Indiana Uplands Region$          30,000,000
North Central: North Central Indiana Regional Planning Council (NCIRPC)$          30,000,000
West Central Indiana Alliance$          20,000,000
Central Indiana – White River Regional Opportunity Initiative$          20,000,000
Accelerate Rural Indiana: Decatur County Community Foundation$          20,000,000
West Central: Wabash River RDA$          20,000,000
East Central IN Regional Partnership$          15,000,000
Southeast: SEI READI, Inc.$          15,000,000
Indiana First Region: Southwest Indiana Development Council$          15,000,000
70-40 Greater Mt Comfort Corridor$             5,000,000

During the board meeting, Governor Eric Holcomb expressed his delight at the regional collaboration that took place over a relatively short amount of time.

“We throw the word ‘unprecedented’ around quite a bit, but there were some unprecedented relationships that were built throughout this process and that is going to serve us well, not just over the course of the next year, two, three years, but really over the course of the next decade,” said Holcomb.

Wasky says while the state wanted to keep a competitive aspect to the program, the decision to provide funding to every region became an easy one to make as time went on.

“We do want to acknowledge that regions have made significant progress just in a very short time,” he said. “What was ultimately submitted to the IEDC was deserving of investment and so we want to, again, make sure that we sent the signal that this is something that we need to continue to focus on across the state and to support every region as they take a first step towards implementing their plans.”

Wasky added one of the major points of focus with READI is sustainability by ensuring the regions continue to engage with one another and pursue the implementation of every project they’ve identified.

“With the need or demand for state support nearly triple that of what we worked with the General Assembly to secure, I think there is great potential for the state to continue to look at creative ways to support communities as they make these investments, whether it be through additional funding if that should be an option or other tools that the IEDC or other agencies have already to be able to help maintain the tremendous work that’s been put in so far.”

Looking forward, the governor recently told our partners at the Indianapolis Business Journal he plans to seek additional funding from the Indiana General Assembly during the 2023 legislative session, which is the next budget session.

“I will lean into it. I hope it’s an easy sell,” Holcomb told the IBJ. “It’s truly a force multiplier when the state of Indiana puts in the first round and makes it very enticing not to let that moment slip by.”