Aiming to improve life around the entire county, Economic Development Corp. of Wayne County voted to spend $500,000 to help reduce blight, provide green spaces and fund youth projects.

EDC’s board voted June 15 to allocate $390,000 toward a new countywide blight elimination program as part of the Hoosier Enduring Legacy Program. EDC officials are hopeful the City of Richmond will contribute $250,000 toward a countywide effort as well.

Having American Rescue Plan Act dollars available has helped officials think more broadly about large projects impacting the whole county.

In a survey and recent brainstorming sessions, residents said they consider cleanups a high priority. However, it’s hard for towns to afford to make an impact, because home demolitions cost about $10,000.

By assisting with cleanup, the EDC hopes to help increase property values and encourage further neighborhood investment.

The EDC board also approved $110,000 for efforts to fund green space and student projects.  

EDC will provide $10,000 donations to enhance or add playgrounds or other green spaces in East Germantown, Economy, Cambridge City, Dublin, Milton and Richmond.

Each community, along with Wayne County, allocated 30% of their ARPA dollars to leverage them with additional funding. Spring Grove also is participating in HELP, but doesn’t have a site to develop.

For instance, if the towns each raise $50,000 for CreatINg Places projects, they can qualify for a $50,000 state match.

Along with EDC, potential $10,000 donors include county government, Wayne County Foundation or other organizations, so the towns might just need to raise $20,000 or $30,000 to receive the maximum match.

In addition, the EDC supported $10,000 each for Wayne County’s five public school districts for student-driven My Community, My Vision projects.

The EDC board considered two other priorities for the $390,000.  

One idea was downtown revitalization, especially adding housing, noting the recent Forward Wayne County study showing $56 million is needed to renovate Main Street buildings in Cambridge City, Centerville, Hagerstown and Richmond.

The other was funding roads and water lines for 26 proposed single-family homes in Richmond’s Hidden Valley and Wynfield neighborhoods.

EDC President Valerie Shaffer said any unfunded projects discussed during HELP brainstorming could be considered for the state’s READI 2.0 applications that are due soon, or Lilly Endowment grants that some local colleges are seeking.

Make My Move

Shaffer told Wayne County commissioners June 14 and the EDC board that 11 remote workers have accepted Make My Move offers from Wayne County.

Six have already moved — all to Richmond — and five more are searching for suitable housing. 

“The restraints on the housing market are surely impacting our ability to recruit individuals to this program,” Shaffer told commissioners.

One mover brought a significant other and another brought a daughter. Both have entered the local workforce.

Shaffer said a Make My Move economic impact analysis estimates the six movers so far have a $352,000-a-year impact through consumer spending and tax revenue. Their average salary is $71,033, and the average local incentive package is $7,500, including $5,000 cash.

With Make My Move’s progress toward its goal of bringing 20 remote workers to Wayne County, incentives could be offered to veterans, graduates of local colleges and workers relocating to local companies, Shaffer said.

Commissioner Jeff Plasterer said incentives could be a good way to quickly attract workforce talent.

“I would encourage us to consider expansion,” he said. “I think recruiting talent continues to be one of our significant challenges.”

Mike Emery contributed to this article. 

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A version of this article appeared in the June 21 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Millicent Martin Emery is a reporter and editor for the Western Wayne News.