IEDCs contract for grant money received’

April 27th, 2016

News Coverage:

April 26, 2016

IEDCs contract for grant money received

Sherry Slater | The Journal Gazette

A 26-page agreement expected to be approved Wednesday defines the relationship between the Northeast Indiana Regional Development Authority and the state officials who will oversee its work.

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. negotiated identical contracts with the three regions chosen in December to each receive a $42 million grant to attract young, talented workers by improving quality of life. 

Northeast Indiana’s board is scheduled to vote on the four-year deal in a special meeting at 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership’s offices at 200 E. Main St., Suite 910. 

“This is a milestone in the process,” said John Stafford, a local business consultant who worked on “The Road to One Million” submission to the state and continues to work with Regional Development Authority board members and grant applicants.

No surprises were included in the agreement, which evolved over four months of discussions, he said. The state’s goal of having one master agreement makes it unlikely that local board members will be able to delete or add provisions to the document, Stafford said.

IEDC officials have included restrictions governing how the tax money it will distribute can be spent. It cannot be used for travel, meals and preparing the grant application itself. 

“You’ve got to spend it for the ways they approve it,” Stafford said.

Exhibit A to the legal document is a seven-page application for project organizers who want money. Among the projects included in northeast Indiana’s bid for the Regional Cities Initiative grant were a $72.5 million regional trails network, the $68.7 million Fort Wayne riverfront development, a $38 million IPFW Center for Leadership, a $23.3 million residential and mixed-use project in Warsaw and the $20 million redevelopment of The Landing in downtown Fort Wayne.

State officials, who have stressed the need for significant private investment in projects, want state money to cover no more than about 20 percent of a project’s total. And they don’t want other sources to rely on Regional Cities money as a condition of their funding approvals.

If the local Regional Development Authority approves a project request, the paperwork is forwarded to the IEDC, which has final authority to decide which projects qualify for state support. Assuming IEDC officials don’t request more information, they are supposed to issue a decision within 30 days, according to the contract.

There is no formal process to appeal a project’s rejection, but Stafford said local officials could ask IEDC officials to clarify their reasons for denying funding and then work with the project’s leaders to possibly restructure the submission in a way that addresses the state’s concerns.

The local Regional Development Authority has already submitted its first request. The board this month approved its first grant: $2.8 million for Skyline Tower, a $44.2 million residential and retail project to be built adjacent to Ash Skyline Plaza in downtown Fort Wayne.

The 12-story building wasn’t included in “The Road to One Million” submission, but board members said increasing downtown housing fits with the goal of attracting millennial workers.

On Page 2 of the project claim form, applicants are asked to explain how the project connects to the previously approved regional development plan.

Other sections call for the project’s budget, an itemized budget breakdown and a listing of firm financial commitments.'