More opportunities for regional growth and development are coming from the Regional Economic Acceleration Initiative (READI) after the Indiana General Assembly appropriated another $500 million in the legislative session that ended last month to be divided among regions throughout the state.
The first $500 million round of funding in 2021 resulted in a $50 million allocation to the Our Southern Indiana Regional Development Authority to be distributed on projects in Clark, Floyd, Jefferson, Scott and Washington counties. In Jefferson County, $5,900,000 is going towards a Hanover College-IU Southeast Madison veterinary teaching school and $2,556,2000 to an assortment of Destination Madison projects.
At OurSIRDA’s meeting on Friday, Cory Cochran, executive director of River Hills Economic Development District Regional Planning Commission, hired by the region to implement the projects, said Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb signed the bill into law May 4 to provide funding for what is being characterized as READI 2.0.
“The language was pretty much copy and paste from the first round of READI with the exception that these funds cannot be used for planning,” said Cochran. “We were hoping that would not be the case, but the legislature determined that the funds for READI 2.0 can only can used for capital projects, infrastructure, buildings, some type of physical structure or something being built.”
Cochran anticipates the READI 2.0 guidelines and application process will be determined by the end of June with the required investment strategies for new projects to be submitted sometime in the fall. He expects the announcements the READI 2.0 awards would be in December.
For the initial round of READI, all regions in the state received varying amounts of funding with $50 million being the highest amount that a region could receive. Cochran does not yet know if that will be the case this year. “I don’t know if they’re going to cap it at $50 million a region. I don’t know if they will fund every region like they did the last time. And I don’t know if they’re going to keep all the regions the same,” he said.
Cochran encouraged communities in the region to begin developing their list of potential projects. “We need to get those project ideas so we can start building our investment strategy,” he said.
He said communities should develop projects that “are quality of place and quality of life. Anything that derives economic development or retains economic development” with returns on investment being a continuing emphasis of the READI projects.
Dana Huber, the OurSIRDA chair, said the back-to-back rounds of funding will provide opportunity throughout the region and impact communities for years to come.
“We certainly have an opportunity that I don’t think any of us would have expected to be a back-to-back opportunity so I feel our regional development board has done a great of building credibility, showing results and planning for the future. All of those things I think will play into our favor,” she said. “Let’s keep those three priorities in mind and continue to play off of those priorities. We’re really doing transformative things for generations to come. It’s super exciting work. I feel really blessed to be a part of it.”
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