Indiana officials are making a second go of investing in capital projects around the state with the newly launched Indiana Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative (READI). The program mirrors a previous version created by former Gov. Mike Pence.
The new state budget designates $500 million to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s READI program with a goal of boosting economic growth.
Compared to the earlier program, which was called the Regional Cities Initiative, READI is starting with about four times as much funding.
The money will be used to encourage investments in projects that will improve quality of life and retain workers in the state. Each region awarded funding can receive a grant of up to $50,000.
Officials expect it will attract at least $2 billion in match funding from local, public, private and philanthropic entities.
Beth Neu is the director of public policy and engagement with Ball State’s Indiana Communities Institute. She studied the impact of the original Regional Cities Initiative on communities. Neu said it was clear it helped bring groups and officials from an area together.
“Sometimes they would work together reluctantly prior to this, and now they really kind of had each other's back and were truly rooting for each other to be successful,” said Neu.
Neu said business and local leaders told her they wanted to see that program go beyond the four years it did.
“They said, this shouldn't be a one-time fix, this should be ongoing,” said Neu. “We need to continue to reinvest in our aging infrastructure and in our capital facilities.”
She said there are a couple of things she’s interested to see with the new initiative, including what regions are created and the projects proposed by each.
Counties, towns, and cities are encouraged to identify a region and submit it to the Indiana Economic Development Corporation by July 1, 2021.