Wayne and surrounding counties aim to increase personal income, housing options, educational attainment and new businesses with a new infusion of $35 million. 

The East Central Indiana region, which encompasses Wayne, Henry, Fayette, Randolph, Blackford, Delaware, Grant and Jay counties, successfully applied for funds through the second round of Indiana’s Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative (READI). 

East Central Indiana Regional Partnership (ECIRP) officials say READI 2.0’s taxpayer funded investment “promises to fuel transformative growth and opportunity across communities in the region.”

State officials announced the $500 million in awards on Thursday, April 11. 

The 15 regional awards presented in this READI round started at $10 million. Six regions received $45 million each. 

Through READI 2.0, East Central Indiana received 133% more funding than its $15 million awarded during READI’s first round. 

ECIRP is the region’s lead economic development, marketing and business attraction organization. ECIRP officials called this year’s higher READI allocation for economic development initiatives “remarkable.”  

Trevor Friedeberg, ECIRP president and CEO, said in a news release he was “incredibly proud” of the work that went into receiving the $35 million award a reality. 

After receiving ideas from more than 3,000 residents through regional workshops and surveys, Wayne County leaders collaborated with other area representatives in hopes of developing a strong application. 

READI encourages regional collaboration and data-informed, long-term planning to attract and retain talent in Indiana.

East Central Indiana asked for support to help meet these outcomes by 2031:  

  • Stabilize the population attracting 1,500 people across the region each year.
  • Increase educational attainment enabling 1,300 people to obtain a bachelor’s degree or higher each year.
  • Promote housing development building approximately 7,200 housing units (including 3,000 units with READI support).
  • Support livelihoods boosting the regional per capita personal income by $22,043 (representing a 47% increase).
  • Foster innovation encouraging the filing of 100 additional business applications each year.

Friedeberg said he speaks for the region’s nearly 400,000 residents in thanking Gov. Eric Holcomb, Indiana Economic Development Corp., Indiana Secretary of Commerce David Rosenburg and “everyone who coordinated, collaborated and came together to make this possible.”

“East Central Indiana is primed for growth, and this is our time,” Friedeberg said.

ECIRP leaders emphasized in their application that eastern Indiana offers several strengths as a mosaic of communities with innovative education, medical institutions and amenities that enable residents to thrive. 

“I’ve seen the impact that READI continues to have in communities across our state,” said State Rep. Brad Barrett, R-Richmond, in a release. “By investing in projects that enhance our neighborhoods and create opportunities for growth, we are creating a sense of pride for everyone who calls this place home. This is about investing in the future of our community and making sure that it remains a place where families can thrive for generations to come.”

For READI 2.0, Indiana Economic Development Corp. focused on several key performance indicators, such as population growth, per capita income growth, growth in employment opportunities, education attainment, housing units developed, child care capacity, innovation activities and private investment.    

After being awarded READI 2.0 funds, the 15 regions are eligible to access an additional $250 million from Lilly Endowment Inc. to enhance READI’s impact. Those funds will focus on projects targeting blight reduction and redevelopment and enhancing Indiana’s arts and culture ecosystem.

State officials say the first $500 million allocated through the first READI already has resulted in more than $12.6 billion invested in quality of place and quality of life assets. 

So far, ECIRP has disbursed $5 million from its READI 1.0 funding for what regional officials call 19 impactful projects including broadband, childcare, infrastructure, arts and culture, recreation, and talent attraction.

More about the funded plan

To read East Central Indiana’s new regional development plan that received $35 million from Indiana Economic Development Corp., visit forgeeci.com/readi-2-0/.

Local members of the East Central Indiana READI 2.0 Steering Committee who developed the plan include Valerie Shaffer, Economic Development Corp. of Wayne County; Acacia St. John, Forward Wayne County; Dan Parker, Economic Development Group of Fayette County; Abi Roszell, Fayette County Community Foundation; Daniel Baker, Randolph County United; Jennifer Fox, Henry County Community Foundation; Corey Murphy, New Castle-Henry County Economic Development Corp.

Share this:

A version of this article appeared in the April 17 2024 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

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