Fifteen regions across Indiana are set to receive a share of $500 million in new economic development grants meant to boost the state’s quality of life, place and opportunity, Gov. Eric Holcomb and other state leaders announced Thursday.

The dollars are part of Indiana’s second Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative, better known as READI 2.0 — a grant program that has been a signature policy of Holcomb’s administration.

All 92 counties will be impacted by projects funded through the program. Among those are plans to increase available housing, develop new work-based learning partnerships, add support for small businesses and expand child care options.

Also anticipated are new parks, trails and other attractions that improve day-to-day life within dozens of Hoosier communities and make the state a magnet for talented workers and their families.

“Indiana is leading the way in future-focused investments in our economy and in our communities, ensuring that all Hoosiers of today and tomorrow have the opportunity to prosper,” Holcomb said. “READI has already resulted in more than $12.6 billion invested in quality of place and quality of life assets. The second iteration of the initiative – READI 2.0 – along with additional committed investments from the Lilly Endowment, will bring billions more to Hoosier neighborhoods, preparing communities, industry and talent for the next generation and beyond.”

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. (IEDC) board approved the investment commitments and regional allocations during a board meeting on Thursday.)

The investment comes alongside a separate $250 million in grant funding to be awarded by the Lilly Endowment Inc.

The announcement grows the state’s overall READI commitment to $1 billion. Holcomb — who is term-limited — launched the program in 2021.

Before that, a similar Regional Cities Initiative, funneled $126 million into regional development.

The state’s money is backed up by $12.2 billion in public, private and nonprofit funds. The administration said every state dollar averaged a $26 match during READI’s first round.

READI 2.0’s 15 regions started developing their funding proposals last summer. They had until February to submit proposals. As part of the funding deliberations, the IEDC, the quasi-public agency administering the program, held numerous forums and visited the regions to discuss their previous investments and future plans.

The maximum award per region was $75 million, an increase from the previous cap of $50 million. None of the regional awards were valued over $45 million, however. 

Holcomb said that’s because all 15 regions cleared a “very high bar.”

“We wanted to make sure that we followed through and looked at disadvantaged and rural areas … which we did, the allocation reflects that, but also that we were able to do projects that were all over the state of Indiana. So, it brings down that $75 million,” the governor said. “As you see the sheer number of quality projects, I would have loved to have had a billion dollars. … But I think we very methodically arrived at — what was not just fair — but what was effective in spurring economic and population growth and attracting talent.”

An external review committee evaluated the applications based on a variety of factors, according to the governor’s office. Criteria included economic development potential, alignment with the state’s priorities, — like population growth, per capita income growth, growth in employment opportunities, educational attainment, housing units developed, childcare capacity and innovation activities — as well as the level of focus on rural communities and the degree of regional collaboration.

“Almost every conversation I have with a company, whether an established Hoosier business or a new company coming to the state, begins and ends with workforce,” said Indiana Secretary of Commerce David Rosenberg. “READI is an essential component for the state retaining and growing our population and workforce talent.”

“Companies around the world are taking notice of this program,” he continued, “and the General Assembly’s investment in these areas has unquestionably been a business retention and attraction tool.”

In 2023, state lawmakers earmarked $500 million to the IEDC for the latest round of READI grants, matching the amount allocated in the state budget two years prior.

It’s still to be determined whether additional state dollars for READI or similar programming will be approved by legislators in the 2025 budget session, or by Indiana’s next governor.

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