Fifty million dollars would have gone a long way to improving Indiana’s Interstate 74 southeast corridor. Twenty million dollars is still a good starting point.
The Regional Economic Acceleration & Development Initiative divvied up $500 million Tuesday across the state to 17 regional groups.
Accelerate Rural Indiana, the group including Shelbyville and Shelby County touting the I-74 southeast corridor, was seeking the maximum award of $50 million, but will settle for $20 million.
“We really didn’t know what to expect,” said Shelbyville Mayor Tom DeBaun. “We didn’t know if we would get $50 million or what a realistic dollar figure was.
“We’re happy with it ($20 million). It will be impactful. It provides opportunities for a lot of projects that might not happen.”
The next question becomes what does Accelerate Rural Indiana, which includes Shelbyville, Rushville, Greensburg and Batesville as well as Shelby County, Rush County and Decatur County, do with $20 million?
Accelerate Rural Indiana’s presentation to the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) highlighted 40 prospective projects based on five priority areas: Housing, Quality of Life, Education and Workforce Development, Public Infrastructure, and Regional Marketing.
Those 40 projects represented a total investment of $866 million in the southeast corridor of Interstate 74.
“We will have to sit down as a group and go from there,” said DeBaun. “I will meet with Brian Asher (of the Shelby County Development Corporation) and we will set our priorities for the Shelby County projects. We still need guidance from the state how the projects should be selected.”
Accelerate Rural Indiana consists of 16 members from each of the respective cities and counties involved. DeBaun, Shelby County Commissioner Don Parker, Asher and Deb Tracy, also of the SCDC, represent Shelbyville and Shelby County.
Jennifer Jones of the Blue River Community Foundation is one of four members on the group’s Oversight Committee.
DeBaun labeled the presentation preparation as grueling at the SCDC’s annual meeting in November but the silver lining of the process is a new line of communication has opened with neighboring communities.
“We have valued the process,” said DeBaun. “Getting better working relationships with all these folks is important.”
There were nine projects from Shelbyville and Shelby County in Accelerate Rural Indiana’s presentation.
- Porter Apartments ($29.5 million investment)
- Blue River Trails Housing Expansion in Morristown ($24.25 million)
- Housing near NW Consolidated Schools ($53.75 million)
- Indoor Sports Complex ($21 million)
- Early Learning Center ($8 million)
- Shelby County Fairground Lighting ($350,000)
- Chase Building ($1 million)
- Pleasant View Commerce Park ($114 million)
- Tom Hession Drive Expansion ($364 million)
DeBaun would like to see the Early Learning Center be a priority.
The community is lacking in quality day care and pre-school offerings for youth ages 0-5. A study showed 70% of Shelby County youth are not kindergarten ready when they reach that point.
That brought the creation of Early Learning Shelby County (ELSC), funded by both city and county government bodies. ELSC has a concept for a standalone childcare facility at Intelliplex Park that would provide quality childcare and preschool learning.
“I believe the early learning center should be our highest priority because it is the most impactful,” said DeBaun. “It can break the generational cycle of not being undereducated and underskilled later in life.”
Each community will fight for its projects. That process could be made simpler if the IEDC provides guidelines for how each of the 17 groups should spend their funding.
Five of the 17 groups received $50 million – Southwest Indiana Regional Development Authority, Our Southern Indiana, South Bend, Northeast, and Northwest Indiana.
“I would like to know how they came up with the formula (for distributing $500 million) or the rationale considering we had the second highest return on investment of the proposals,” said DeBaun.
Four of the proposals with central Indiana ties each received $20 million.
“That is curious to me,” said DeBaun. “They hit South Bend, Gary, Fort Wayne and Evansville really hard but the areas around central Indiana got $20 million. I would like to know how they decided it.”
There is potential for more funding in 2023, according to DeBaun. That could have an impact on what local projects get immediate funding.