Wayne County’s regional partnership is developing its vision to apply for READI 2.0 state money.

The East Central Indiana Regional Partnership received $15 million in December 2021 from the Indiana Economic Development Corporation’s original Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative. With the application due during February, the nine counties could receive up to $75 million of the $500 million available. The funding decisions are expected during April.

The first READI application involved 17 regions — which have realigned into 15 — identifying specific projects and submitting them to the IEDC, which chose the projects to fund. The IEDC doesn’t want that this time.

“A big change for READI 2.0 from the first round is that we can give example projects in our new strategic plan and vision for the region, but we’re not to have a whole listing of projects for the IEDC to consider to fund,” said Valerie Shaffer, president of the Economic Development Corporation of Wayne County, while updating Wayne County’s commissioners during their Sept. 13 meeting. “Instead, we’re communicating the vision and the outcomes we hope to accomplish from that vision, then once the IEDC determines each regional funding allocation, they will be meeting with regions and the IEDC will be selecting the projects that they want to fund.”

The state is focused on population growth and private-sector investment, Shaffer said. READI funds only 20% of a project. She said other key areas the state considers are per capita income growth, educational attainment, availability and affordability of housing units, child care opportunities, and innovation activities.

During the application process, IEDC personnel will visit regions.

“Last time around, we had to go to them,” Shaffer said. “Now, they’re going to be actually in the region, seeing what our needs are, hearing from people directly and begin to visualize the impact these funds could have.”

Wayne County only had one project selected for funding through the original READI process: market-rate apartments at the former Elder-Beerman site in Richmond. Work continues to attract enough financing to begin that project, Shaffer said.

Available, attractive housing continues to be a concern in Wayne County, which is in the process of a second housing study. Housing impacts the Make My Move program’s ability to entice remote workers to relocate to the county. Six workers have moved, and three more have accepted the county’s incentive offers, but that’s less than half the 20-mover goal.

Shaffer said rising construction costs and interest rates slow housing development. Additional government subsidies available for projects buys down interest rates and sparks development.

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A version of this article appeared in the September 20 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Mike Emery is a reporter and layout editor for the Western Wayne News.