The Our Southern Indiana Regional Development Authority (OurSIRDA) has announced a change in the funding methodology it adopted recently for projects sharing $50 million in Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative (READI) funding.
The change, announced by the group on Friday, could save a joint proposal by Hanover College and Ivy Tech Madison to develop a veterinary school that seemed in doubt last month while also providing slightly more money for a Destination Madison project.
The OurSIRDA board on Friday voted 4-1 to revise the previously-approved funding allocations from the $50 million it will receive from the Indiana Economic Development Corporation’s READI program.
“Our intent has always been to help regionally impactful projects move forward with READI funding,” said board chair Dana Huber. “When the RDA discovered that several projects were not likely to progress to completion by the 2026 deadline, it allowed us to revisit the funding amounts and provide more funds to projects that are making progress.”
Steve Meyer, the representative from Scott County, was the only board member to vote in opposition with Huber (Clark County), Ken Rush (Floyd County), Kevin Kellems (Jefferson County) and John Jones (Washington County) all supporting the change. In the original methodology that had been established in June, the board had approved a mechanism that provided funding for all 21 projects with some given just a percentage of what was requested. Now, projects OurSIRDA deems to be most impactful will be more fully funded with some not receiving any funding at this time.
The Hanover College-Ivy Tech Madison Veterinary Teaching Center will now receive the $5.9 million it had originally requested. With the tiered funding approved earlier, that project was slated to receive about half that amount at $2,969,376.21, which would have presented a challenge in gaining the necessary resources to move forward on a project that had scored among the top four regionally last year.
“The enormous impact this home-grown project will have may be challenging to fully comprehend now, but the Hanover-Ivy Tech project promises to be huge and enduring,” said Kellems. “This is about establishing our southern Indiana as a hub for veterinary medicine, bioscience and agribusiness.”
“The new funding distribution will allow our project to proceed,” said Kay Stokes, special assistant to the president for Accreditation and External Relations at Hanover College. “We look forward to working with the RDA and IEDC (Indiana Economic Development Corporation) on next steps, and we appreciate their support.”
Meanwhile, with the revised methodology the Destination Madison project is slated to receive $2,556,200 — slightly more than the $2,369,850 that would have been received under the initial methodology. However, even with the increase, the level of funding is less than the original $3,949,750 request for Destination Madison.
“While the city’s destination plan was not fully funded, it will still allow us to move forward on our Madison Gateway, Mulberry Arts Corridor and grocery developments, all of which have already contributed to more investment all across the city,” Madison Mayor Bob Courtney said. “The balance of the funding for the full plan will be incorporated into other financial planning we are doing with our capital plans for the next three to five years.”
Courtney said he is pleased about the change in methodology. “The purpose of READI was to spark investment across the five county RDA for projects that were beyond the conceptual stage and which would be impactful to the region as a whole,” he said. “The city of Madison’s Destination Plan and Hanover College’s partnership with Ivy Tech for a Veterinary Teaching Center meet all of the criteria.”
Courtney also noted that “Jefferson County was well represented by receiving almost 20% of the total awarded to the region and for that we are very proud.”
However, one local project that is no longer receiving funding is the Hanover-Madison Connector Trail, which was slated in June to receive $960,000 out of the $1.6 million that had been requested.
Stokes, who has been active with efforts to move the trail forward, said that losing that funding “will create some challenges, but they are not insurmountable. The project still has $2.16 million in state Next-Level Trails funding for Phase I, which is estimated to cost about $2.7 million, so we will need to make up a $500,000 funding gap. We will definitely be working to raise funds locally, and we will be applying for additional funding from READI 2.0 next year.”
Cory Cochran, executive director of River Hills Economic Development District, is working with OurSIRDA in the implementation of READI funding. He emphasized that this is only the first round of the READI program, and Gov. Eric Holcomb has expressed intention to pursue a second round of funding.
“This time next year, we’re talking about having more dollars for projects that were either cut or were decreased, so those will be somewhat of a priority for the RDA,” Cochran said, adding there may be other state funding sources that can be utilized to move projects forward.
The project receiving the largest amount of funding from OurSIRDA, is Clark County’s Origin Park, a project under development by River Heritage Conservancy Phase I that is slated for $8,305,000. That total is still significantly lower than the $17.2 million originally requested, but the READI funding will assist River Heritage Conservancy in creating the planned 600-acre park along the Ohio River with the initial phase working towards activating more than 100 acres of a blighted riverfront area.
Charlestown will receive $7.4 million in READI funding that includes $5 million for building the city’s new wastewater treatment facility and $2.4 million for the Market Street Commons affordable housing development. The methodology in June provided $3 million for the $42 million wastewater treatment plant that is expected to begin construction early next year.
There will be $5 million in funding going for Jeffersonville’s North Wastewater Treatment Plant, which had previously been allocated $3 million, for increasing the plant’s capacity.
In Floyd County, the Novaparke Innovation and Technology Campus will receive $4.2 million. The project, under development in Edwardsville, is designed to offer space for research, technology, development and entrepreneurial companies.
There will be $4 million in READI funding for the South Clarksville project to develop an unused Marathon Ashland Petroleum site into a new, open air town center.
The South Monon Freedom Trail in New Albany will receive $4,070,000 towards the purchase of CSX railway from New Albany to Bedford as the first step in creating the South Monon Freedom Trail.
Other projects receiving funding in the region are: Sellersburg Family Scholar House, Ivy Tech Community College, $1,890,000; Sellersburg Town Center/Star Valley Destination Project, $1,500,000; Southern Indiana Youth Sports Complex in Scott County, $700,000; Star Valley Destinations in Borden, $500,000; Lake Salinda Recreation Facility in Salem, $280,000; Salem Municipal Airport, $253,000; Washington County Economic Growth Partnership Housing in Salem, $250,000; the ONE Fund, $125,000; and Align Southern Indiana Regional Trails, a collaboration among Clark, Floyd, Harrison, Scott and Washington Counties, $70,000.
About 6% of the READI allocation will be used by the IEDC and the RDA to oversee the program. During the RDA meeting, it was stated that the RDA has been working with the IEDC over the past month to develop the new funding amounts to dedicate to regional projects.
“We have a great relationship with the IEDC. When developing the funding amounts, we utilized their unique knowledge of regional economic development and combined our knowledge of the region and projects,” Huber said. “We are confident in our process from the beginning and funding amounts as presented. The other RDA directors and I are excited. This is the largest single grant our region has received, and we are dedicated to steward the funds so that future generations will benefit from our investment.”
Over the next couple of months, the Our Southern Indiana RDA is expected to vote on projects individually as they receive formal approval from the IEDC to move forward. Projects are subject to specific criteria that was laid out in the READI process and required to meet criteria established in the American Rescue Plan legislation.
“We have already discussed all the projects with the IEDC, and each one has received informal approval,” Cochran said. “Moving forward, the IEDC and their fiduciary consultant will formally approve projects to receive READI funding.” Cochran expects projects to receive funds as early as August or September, depending on if more material is requested for IEDC to grant formal approval of individual projects.
“We are ready to get these regional and generational projects started. We have been working on this process for over a year and feel that our project leads are as eager as we are,” Huber said. “We are thankful for the opportunity that the state and governor has given us, and we are ready.”
The READI program allocated $500 million overall in funding to regions throughout Indiana to invest in economic development and population growth projects so similar effort are being conducted throughout the state.
The next scheduled meeting of Our Southern Indiana RDA will be Friday, Aug. 5, at the Clark County Government Center in Jeffersonville.