Officials with the South Central Indiana Talent Region Plan to make their case for a $49.5 million READI grant at 1 p.m. Friday at Dallara IndyCar Factory in Speedway.

The region that includes Jackson, Bartholomew and Jennings counties and the town of Edinburgh is one of 17 self-identified regions in the state that have already met or will meet with the Indiana Economic Development Corp. and members of the READI grant review committee this week.

The meetings provide officials with each region the opportunity to present their vision, goals and strategies to positively impact their region’s quality of place and quality of life, innovation, entrepreneurship and talent attraction and development. The state has set aside $500 million for grant requests through the program, which also is known as the Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative.

A final decision about grant recipients will be made and announced by the second week of December.

Seymour Mayor Matt Nicholson, who served on the steering committee for the South Central Indiana Talent Region’s READI grant proposal, said he looks forward to seeing what the state comes back with in terms of decisions.

“I feel sorry for them in a way,” he said. That’s because all of the regions have made good requests and it’s going to be a tough decision about which proposals receive funding, he said.

“No matter what decision they make, they are going to be good projects,” Nicholson said.

Launched by Gov. Eric Holcomb and led by the IEDC, READI builds on the framework and successes of the Indiana Regional Cities Initiative and the 21st Century Talent Initiative, encouraging regional collaboration and data-driven, long-term planning that when implemented will attract and retain talent in Indiana, according to a news release from the IEDC.

Friday’s hearing is the third of three days of hearings. Six regions presented their cases today, and six others did so Monday.

The South Central Indiana Talent Region presentation includes 26 projects in four categories: Innovation and entrepreneurship, education and workforce development, housing and talent attraction and quality of place.

The region is making plans to welcome up to 13,000 new residents to the region by the end of the decade. The group also set a benchmark of building at least 567 homes with READI support.

In Bartholomew County, READI funding would help support, among other projects, the construction of the initial phase of a new research and development test complex and proving ground for autonomous, electric and alternative-fuel vehicles.

The complex, the Mobility Test Park and Proving Ground, would be at the former Walesboro airport, where Cummins and Faurecia are currently using the former runways as a test track.

“Combining READI support with pledged public and private match, the initial $31 million phase (of the project) will be achieved,” the plan states. “In 2022, construction of a new replacement track for Cummins will be built by the community. In 2023, construction of the autonomous pad will commence which will become a shared and

Seymour High School senior Trever Stuckwisch works in a welding booth in February 2020 in the school’s welding lab at the Ag-Science and Research Farm in the Freeman Field Industrial Park. File photo

managed facility open for users to conduct short-term or long-term testing and validation needs.”

In 2024, LHP Engineering Solutions conditionally expects to invest in a new engineering facility to house its growing Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems and functional safety business, with additional space available to welcome new ventures on site, the plan states.

LHP Engineering Solutions has conditionally pledged more than $15 million of its own funds to two of the projects in the plan, though it is currently unclear which two projects the company may help pay for, according to the announcement.

The project at Walesboro has been envisioned and considered by Columbus officials for several years.

“At full build, facilities will allow testing and certification of autonomous, noise/vibration/ handling, braking, highway, electric vehicle and other applications,” the plan states.

The funding would also help fund part of the NexusPark project at the former FairOaks Mall site in Columbus.

The city of Columbus has a projected commitment of $33 million in the project, including the construction of an indoor fieldhouse, recreational facilities, Columbus Parks’ administrative offices, community fitness facilities, non-sports activity areas and community gathering spaces.

Columbus Regional Hospital has committed $35 million for health care facilities, including physician offices, diagnostic services, wellness spaces and physical and occupational therapy spaces.

READI funds would be used to support the currently unfunded exterior campus and connector facilities, including community park spaces, People Trails and access to a public transportation hub, according to the announcement.

The funding would also help support other projects in Bartholomew County, including the Columbus Riverfront Project and a hotel and conference center in downtown Columbus, among others, the plan states.

The funding would also help fund a parking garage that would support the hotel and conference center and other events and festivals in downtown Columbus and help get construction underway on plans to redevelop the waterfront between the Second and Third Street bridges in downtown Columbus, which could start next year and take an estimated 18 months.

Six of the projects with READI grant funding requests of just more than $7 million are in Jackson County.

The total budget of the 26 projects in the region is $378.5 million.
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