Region including Johnson County nabs $45M in READI 2.0 funds

Central Indiana was awarded $45 million in state-funded regional grants by the Indiana Economic Development Corp. on Thursday, one of 15 regions across the state to receive part of a $500 million allocation.

The funding, sourced through the state’s Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative, or READI, is part of a program focused on generating growth and attracting business to every corner of the Indiana.

The number of regions participating in this year’s READI 2.0 program is down from 17 in READI 1.0. That’s because three regions in central Indiana—White River, 180 Alliance and Mt. Comfort—came together to form the singular Central Indiana Regional Development Authority.

The state plans to work directly with each region to determine which of their projects will receive funding. While every region applied for the maximum $75 million in funding, the top award was $45 million, which went to six regions including central Indiana.

Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness is chair of the CIRDA board. He said while the region was hopeful it would receive a full allotment of $75 million, it doesn’t dissuade the authority in its efforts to put forth consequential and unique projects.

Dozens of projects have been on the table for the funding, including housing and placemaking projects in Bargersville, McCordsville and Martinsville; an amphitheater in Anderson; the Innovation Mile in Noblesville; and the redevelopment of Circle Centre Mall in downtown Indianapolis.

“Everyone has their top priority, so what we’re going to have to do as a group, is … to come together and identify those priorities” for the region as a whole. “There’s two missions here: we want to make the dollars effective toward these goals, but, two, we want to sustain regional relationships. This is central Indiana, so we want that to sustain past this.”

Fadness said a project like Circle Centre Mall — which is already set to receive about $64 million in state and local funds — can be “a massive challenge” because it is such a substantial undertaking, both physically and financially. Developer Hendricks Commercial Properties was promised by the city of Indianapolis and the IEDC that it would be included in the region’s grant application, but it was not promised a specific dollar figure.

“It’s obviously a project that’s top of mind for all of us, because we know it has regional impact,” he said, adding that CIRDA will have to determine “how to address that” and balance it with needs of smaller towns and disadvantaged communities across the region.

Secretary of Commerce David Rosenberg said he thinks Central Indiana’s proposals for funding were strengthened by the collaboration among the counties, compared to the first funding round. In 2021, the three regions combined for $40 million in grants, $5 million lower than the READI 2.0 award.

“I think that really regional approach resonated with the review committee, and obviously they hit a lot of the [targets] with population growth and innovation,” he said. “That dedication to being to the true regionalism really showed … that’s why they took a big step up this round.”

State officials said they expect the state’s total funding awards to fetch a total of $11 billion in total investment between public, private and not-for-profit funding mechanisms.

“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,” Gov. Eric Holcomb said in written remarks.

This story is by Mickey Shuey.