Area has more time to use $42 million in Regional Cities funding

February 17th, 2016

News Coverage:

February 17, 2016

Area has more time to use $42 million in Regional Cities funding

Bob Caylor | News-Sentinel

There’s now more breathing room in the schedule for spending Regional Cities millions, members of the board that will authorize the spending learned on Tuesday. However, they also heard that taking advantage of the extended schedule might prove to be an important mistake.

The Northeast Indiana Regional Development Authority is responsible for approving projects for shares of $42 million in state funding. The intent is to help stimulate economic-development efforts in an 11-county area of northeast Indiana.

The South Bend and Evansville regions also were awarded commitments to $42 million each by the Indiana Economic Development Corp. last year. Throughout the competition among regions last year for this funding, which is planned to provide a 20-percent contribution to projects, information from the state was that the money would be distributed over a two-year period.

On Tuesday, the board’s attorney, Andrew Boxberger, said that the IEDC now says each region has up to four years, not two years, to authorize spending its funds.

John Sampson, president and CEO of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, warned board members that waiting four years to get projects rolling could make it harder to compete for a renewal of Regional Cities funding from the state.

“If we’re thinking about renewing this grant, there will be tremendous pressure to show results,” he said. The sooner the region can show some results, the better it is for persuading state officials to provide still more match funding.

Also on Tuesday, Andrew Boxberger, the RDA’s attorney, said that he and lawyers from the South Bend and Evansville regions are nearing an agreement on what they would like to see in grant agreements between the IEDC and the RDAs. One sticking point: The IEDC has said that Regional Cities projects ought to have 60 percent private funding. Board members endorsed his suggestion that the IEDC should treat that number as a guideline instead of a strict requirement.