County officials and members of the community gathered Wednesday evening to discuss work that might qualify for a state grant program aimed at funding work that could have a regional impact.

“It was kind of a workshop,” Jim Tidd, executive director of the Miami County Economic Developement Authority, told the Tribune on Thursday. “We probably had 40 people attend.”

Those included not only elected officials, but business owners, developers, realtors and representatives from community groups as well as representatives from Indiana University Kokomo and Ivy Tech.

Together they discussed projects and opportunities that might take advantage of the recently announced Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative (READI).

Gov. Eric Holcomb and the Indiana Economic Development Corp. (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).

That partnership is heading up efforts to the east of Miami County where Grant County commissioners recently made a commitment to pursue the funding with Grant, Blackford, Delaware, Henry, Jay, Randolph and Wayne counties.

The Indiana General Assembly appropriated $500 million to the READI program this past legislative session through the passage of House Enrolled Act 1001.

The program is meant to encourage “neighboring communities across the state to work collaboratively to develop a bold vision for their future that, when implemented, will attract, develop and retain talent in Indiana.”

“To achieve this vision, regions will develop data-driven, actionable and sustainable development plans that outline strategies focused on improving the quality of place, quality of life and quality of opportunity within their communities,” information from the program’s website says. “To help regions achieve their goals, the IEDC will award up to $50 million per region to accelerate the implementation of regional development plans and the programs and projects identified that will catalyze economic and population growth.”

The READI program discourages multiple RDPs being submitted from the same region.

That is why local efforts will be coordinated through the North Central Indiana Regional Planning Council and consulting firm HWC Engineering. Counties in the local region include Fulton, Cass, Howard, Tipton and Clinton counties.

Meetings similar to Wednesday’s are being held in those counties in the coming days.

Tidd said that Wednesday’s group “identified needs across the community” including workforce housing, a lack of retail business, and a desire to keep the local population steady if not growing.

Competition will likely be stiff as more than 15 regions across the state vie for the additional funding, but Tidd said he felt that the local group has at least one advantage.

“Our region, these six counties, have been working together for 30-some years,” he said.

That, Tidd said, goes back before “regionalism” was “a cool thing.”

“We’ve been doing it,” he said.

The deadline for funding applications is the end of August.

Tidd said a website is in the works to keep residents up to date on how the work is progressing and an address will be released when it is available.

This story contains reporting from Marion Chronicle-Tribune editor Tim Tedeschi.
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