Northeast Indiana Vying To Be Economic Regional Contender

March 3rd, 2015

News Coverage:

Northeast Indiana Vying To Be Economic Regional Contender

By Rachel Martin - 21Alive

March 2, 2015 Updated Mar 2, 2015 at 11:16 PM EST

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (21Alive) – The biggest threat to economic development is a stagnant population, and the State wants to remedy that through a grant proposal.

It's called the "Regional Cities Initiative.” Governor Mike Pence proposed this initiative with the idea of transforming Indiana’s approach to economic development in order to attract and retain young talent to certain regions.

Cities must submit a proposal with an idea that will change the quality of life using the public and private sectors. John Sampson, President and CEO of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership says up to $100 million could potentially be up for grabs.

“It would be roughly $21 million a year for two communities over two years – that’s that starting point. Pence’s proposed budget was $84 million, but what they’re asking us to submit is an eight-year plan,” said Sampson. “Roughly that $21 million a year from the State matched by local funds, and then the 60 percent in private, that equates to $100 million of capital investment in quality place assets. That’s a huge game changer for us!”

Sampson says Northeast Indiana has already made development strides over the past decade with things like Parkview Field, The Harrison, and the Auburn Cord Dusenberg Museum.

Several other cities around the state are vying for this grant, but organizers say they want cities in Northeast Indiana to work together. They say it's not about coming up with new ideas, but building off what we already have.

"I've talked to communities already across this region, they have tremendous plans and no resources to make it happen. It's our job to aggregate those resources and commit those resources to make really cool things happen,” said Sampson.

"At the end of the day it's about jobs, and people want to locate jobs where there's good talent. Good talent wants to locate where there's a great place to live and that's what we're trying to advance,” said John Urbahns, Executive Vice President of Economic Development for Greater Fort Wayne, Inc.

Part of this idea is to expand the region’s population to one million, which Sampson says would give Northeast Indiana a leg-up in the development game.

“Communities at one million and above they get opportunities for economic growth that other communities below a million don’t get,” said Sampson. “As a region we’re at 700,000, just 300,000 short. Over a five to 10-year period we can be at a million and it will change everything for us.”

The proposal is due July 1, 2015, leaving only four months to narrow down an idea. Greater Fort Wayne, Inc. and the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership are spear-heading the initiative, and from here, they plan to form subcommittees in the 10 region area, and conduct online surveys.