Northeast Indiana READI FAQ
Are the consultants the ones who decide the direction and content of the application? Will this be a politically motivated decision?
The Local Economic Development Organization (LEDO) Council served as the steering committee for the generation of the Regional Development Plan, which serves as the READI application. The RDA invited anyone to submit a proposal through an online portal. Those interested in submitting county-specific proposals were directed to consult with their LEDO prior to submission. Nearly all proposals submitted by the deadline of July 16 were included in the plan, and roughly 45 projects were identified by the steering committee to be featured as Vision Projects that were most emblematic of the goals set out in the Growing with Vision Plan.
What are the project buckets?
The Growing with Vision plan has three primary goals: Workforce Growth, Downtown Vibrancy and Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Under each goal there are a series of strategies as follows:
- Workforce Growth
- Build workforce housing
- Attract and retain talent
- Support southeast Fort Wayne
- Leverage anchor assets
- Develop a healthcare pipeline
- Downtown Vibrancy
- Build up main streets
- Grow Riverfront Fort Wayne
- Entrepreneurship and Innovation
- Build innovation spaces
- Support southeast Fort Wayne
- Prepare for Industry 4.0 economic shifts
Is there a timeline for spending dollars?
This issue will be settled once the final grant agreements between the IEDC and regions are executed, but the current expectation is that there will be a five-year window for fully expending funds.
Will the three strategies drive the decision on what projects get funded?
Ten criteria for evaluating proposals were identified by the Steering Committee and RDA board. Projects and Programs will need to align closely with one of the three strategies (Workforce Growth, Downtown Vibrancy and Entrepreneurship and Innovation) in order to be heard by the RDA.
How does this impact business attraction?
Talent is the number one factor in business attraction decisions. Site consultants and business decision-makers are focusing on the quality of life and quality of place more than ever as they consider the community’s ability to attract and retain talent. The READI program and the Growing with Vision plan build on that further by identifying specific programs to upskill existing talent and attract new talent, while also investing in entrepreneurship. Regional business attraction marketing continues to focus on the region’s investment in itself and it is critical that the region has and promotes significant and real activities aimed at growing the workforce to increase our competitive edge for business attraction.
What is the Strategic Development Commission and how does that play a role?
The Northeast Indiana Strategic Development Commission (SDC) is a statutorily created body of political appointees whose goal is to promote the Vision 2030 goals of increasing Per Capita Personal Income, Population and Credential Attainment. Chaired by Ronald Turpan of Ambassador Enterprises, the SDC is currently engaging TIP Strategies, the consultant that supported the Growing with Vision plan, to develop its strategic plan. The SDC’s current focus is on identifying new and important resources to support the economic growth of the region and the advancement of the Vision 2030 goals. The SDC provided an enthusiastic letter of support for the Growing with Vision plan and will be a strategic partner to the RDA in the execution of the Growing with Vision plan and its own strategic plan.
Who can qualify (type of businesses) for READI?
For-profit, nonprofit, faith-based, educational institutions, private philanthropy, local government…etc. are all eligible recipients. Eligibility is deliberately broad, per the IEDC’s guidelines, assuming the project falls within the guidelines.
Explanation of 4 to 1 funding match: The match of the 20% was the iffy part. What if the 80% was already available?
The IEDC has been clear in its guidelines that no more than 20% of funding can come from state sources. The IEDC is also requiring that a minimum of 20% of the cost of the plan be matched by local government. The remaining 60% can come from private sources, federal funding, philanthropy or even additional governmental funds.
An important note is that the match requirement is for the entire portfolio of projects, not necessarily for individual projects. This provides some match-flexibility within individual projects. That said, any proposal owner is advised to work to secure 20% local government match, and 60% other match funds from a source other than State funding.
How transparent is the process (if we have a win) to decide what the next steps will be?
The next steps will largely be driven by the IEDC and the grant agreement with the RDA that will be negotiated and executed in early 2022. The RDA intends to provide regular and ongoing updates through the LEDO Council, ROC meetings, blog posts, press releases and their scheduled open-door meetings.
When is the last day to submit?
The last day to submit a proposal for inclusion in the Growing with Vision plan was July 16. The last day to submit a READI application to the IEDC was September 30. It’s important to note that the RDA may still consider proposals that were not included in the Growing with Vision.
The RDA continues to accept proposals for projects and programs through its website (www.neindiana.com/rda) for funding consideration and will do so until any approved READI funds are fully expended.
How many of the 138 projects will be chosen?
130 projects were included in the Growing with Vision plan. 45 were identified as Vision Projects as most emblematic of the region’s three strategies: Workforce Growth, Downtown Vibrancy and Entrepreneurship and Innovation. A handful of projects were submitted in multiple counties, so were bundled together and a few removed themselves from consideration. Only three were removed by the steering committee for not effectively consulting with their local economic developer.
What is the total amount of the 138 is in the $400m or is that the 20% that READI will fund?
The 130 projects ultimately included in the Growing with Vision plan include more than $400 million in READI funding requests, of which there is only $50 million available. The estimated total value of the projects is close to $2 billion. To put this in perspective, the Road to One Million plan included roughly 70 projects. Only 28 received some of the $42 million available from Regional Cities Initiative funding, but nearly 60 of the original 70 are either complete or underway and the total estimated investment for those projects originally featured in the Road to One Million plan exceeds $1 billion.
Will every county get a project?
Each of the 11 counties has multiple projects or programs included in the Growing with Vision plan. Each of the 11 counties has at least one project featured as a Vision Project for being truly emblematic of the three goals (Workforce Growth, Downtown Vibrancy and Entrepreneurship and Innovation). While this does not guarantee that each county will receive READI funding, it should be noted that each county had a project funded through the Regional Cities Initiative process, which will be similar to the READI process.
Will projects with a regional impact get chosen over projects that are city-specific?
The first of the ten criteria that the RDA will consider when hearing funding requests is “Achieve regional and long-term impact. So regional impact will be considered. That said, city-specific projects are certainly capable of having a significant regional impact, so the two should not be read as exclusive.
How long do we have to spend any award monies?
This issue will be settled once the final grant agreements between the IEDC and regions are executed, but current guidance from the IEDC is that there will be a five-year window to expend funds and that the IEDC intends to provide reimbursement funding. So the combined implication is that individual projects and programs would need to expend IEDC funding in that same five-year window. Further guidance will be provided once the agreements are negotiated.
What is a “game-changing” project?
The RDA will consider the following ten criteria when hearing funding requests listed below.
- Achieve regional and long-term impact
- Meet one of the three Growing with Vision goals
- Pass the “but for” test, meaning the project or program would not happen as quickly or with as much impact without READI funding
- Show evidence of sustainability beyond the READI investment
- Pass funding due diligence
- Demonstrate a significant public return on investment
- Commit to being completed with the confines of federal funding
- Align well with county and regional plans
- Propose a viable timeline
- Meet the needs of an underserved population
Where are opportunities for collaboration?
The RDA and its support staff will review each proposal as submitted and will look for opportunities to encourage collaboration among submitting organizations. Likewise, the RDA is working closely with regional funders to help direct promising proposals to other funding sources to help identify matches for READI-funded projects or to connect other worthy projects that aren’t right for READI funding to investment opportunities. Finally, the IEDC has committed to help identify other state funding sources that may be available for projects and programs and to work through the RDA on directing opportunities to regional projects.
Why does Allen County have a high number of projects?
With about half of the population and more than 50% of the jobs, it is natural that Allen County would have the largest raw number of project submissions. For reference, roughly half of the Regional Cities Initiative funding was invested in Allen County. Of the 130 projects included in the Growing with Vision plan 40% (52) are from Allen County.
Can projects be combined?
Yes. The RDA and its support staff will look for opportunities to encourage collaboration and, if appropriate, the combination of projects and programs. The RDA would also appreciate project owners proactively identifying opportunities to collaborate with other project owners.
What is a program project vs. building?
Unlike the Regional Cities Initiative, the READI program encourages programs as well as capital projects. The Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing at Huntington University is an example of a proposal that only requested program funding. READI funding is requested for personnel, technology and marketing. Many proposals include requests for both capital and programming. One example is the Northeast Indiana Higher-Ed Research Consortium Connector, which includes READI funding requests to support the construction of a physical space as well as personnel, marketing and research.