Grant County Commissioners made an official commitment to be a part of a newly-created economic development grant program at Monday’s regular meeting.

The board passed a resolution stating the county will join the East Central Indiana Forge Your Path Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative (READI) Regional effort.

Gov. Eric Holcomb and the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) launched the READI program, whose goal is to “promote strategic investments that will make Indiana a magnet for talent and economic growth,” according to a press release from the East Central Indiana Regional Partnership (ECIRP).

The Indiana General Assembly appropriated $500 million to the READI program this past legislative session through the passage of House Enrolled Act 1001, and each identified region statewide will be eligible for $50 million. Up to $50,000 in a planning grant per region will be made available to create a Regional Development Plan (RDP), the resolution states.

“If we have a project, we want to be in on it,” Commissioner Mark Bardsley said. “The more of the region that is accepting to that, it opens up opportunities for us to tap into some of this $50 million.”

The READI program discourages multiple RDPs being submitted from the same region, as the guidelines state “overlap between regions could indicate a lack of regional collaboration.” For this reason, and the fact that support from local officials of ECIRP like county commissioners is “important in the creation of the RDP and critical for its subsequent execution,” the board passed the resolution stating its intent to be part of the ECIRP group working on the RDP.

Bardsley said the cities of Marion, Gas City and Jonesboro have also made similar declarations that they intend to collaborate within the ECIRP region on the READI grant.

According to the press release, ECIRP has applied for the READI program and initial planning grant on behalf of Grant, Blackford, Delaware, Henry, Jay, Randolph and Wayne counties, which make up the ECIRP region.

“We are excited and grateful for the opportunity to apply for the state’s READI program,” ECIRP President Mindy Kenworthy said in the release. “East Central Indiana is a great place to live, work, and play, and it is critically important not only to continue to build pride and empowerment among our current residents, but to attract talented people to our area and diversify our population. These state funds could represent transformational investments into our local communities.”

The resolution states the work done to earn East Central Indiana’s designation as a 21st Century Talent Region this past January, which highlights communities across the state focused on collaborating to attract, develop and connect talent, will provide the framework for the work put into the RDP.

The release noted Ball State University played a large part in the region obtaining 21st Century Talent Region status and will continue to provide support during the RDP process along with IU Health.

ECIRP plans to bring employers, anchor institutions and other stakeholders together soon to work on the RDP “that outlines the current state of the region, its vision for the future, and a game plan to invest in its growth and prosperity,” the release states.

The deadline to submit RDPs to the IEDC is Aug. 31, and funding decisions are expected to be announced by December, according to ECIRP.
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