Regional officials request a READI grant of $ 49.5 million


Aerial photo of the former Walesboro Airport property taken since 2012, when discussions about its development for a commercial park turned serious. The Woodside Industrial Park, the first tenant of which opened in 1981, is visible in the foreground. Submitted

Regional officials, including several leaders from the Columbus area, have submitted a grant proposal of $ 49.5 million to the state to support $ 378 million in projects to boost housing, regional amenities, workforce training and innovation in south-central Indiana.

The South Central Indiana Talent Region announced Thursday that the group has applied for funding through the Indiana Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative, or READI, which aims to award $ 500 million across the state to promote strategic investments to retain and attract talent and encourage economic growth.

The proposal is based on a plan developed through a collaboration of communities, nonprofits and employers primarily based in the South Central Indiana Talent Region, which includes the counties of Bartholomew, Jackson and Jennings, as well as Edinburgh, among other nearby locations.

The plan proposes to use READI funding to help fund or support numerous projects in the greater Columbus area, including a research and development testing complex on the former Walesboro Airport property, the NexusPark project on the site of the former FairOaks Mall in Columbus, the expansion of the Seymour High School Owl Making Program and broadband access in rural Jennings County.

Officials involved in developing the plan called the funding opportunity “unprecedented” and “game changer” for the region.

“I’m not sure if I’ve seen an opportunity like this in all of my years working in the grant funding world,” said Eric Frey, executive director of Southern Indiana Housing and Community Development Corp ., who is the lead applicant on the region’s READI proposal. “There are amenities and upgrades in these multiple counties that I think will attract people to this area. “

Then regional officials plan to present their plan to a state committee in November and hope to know if the funding has been granted by the end of the year, Frey said.

The plan

The 187-page proposal announced Thursday is broken down into four main strategies – innovation and entrepreneurship, education and workforce development, housing and talent attraction, and place quality – and outlines the plans for 25 agreed regional projects and initiatives. .

The South Central Indiana Talent Region plans to welcome up to 13,000 new residents to the region by the end of the decade. The group has also set itself the goal of building at least 567 housing units with the support of READI.

In Bartholomew County, READI funding would help support, among other projects, the construction of the initial phase of a new research and development testing complex and proving ground for autonomous, electric and fuel vehicles. alternative.

The complex, the Mobility Test Park and Proving Ground, would be located at the old Walesboro Airport, where Cummins and Faurecia currently use the old runways as a test track.

“By combining READI’s support with a promised public and private twinning, the initial $ 31 million phase (of the project) will be achieved,” the plan says. “In 2022, the construction of a new replacement runway for Cummins will be carried out by the community. In 2023, construction of the stand-alone platform will begin, which will become a shared and managed facility open to users for testing and validation needs in the short or long term. “

In 2024, LHP Engineering Solutions plans to invest in a new engineering facility to house its advanced driver assistance systems and growing functional safety business, with additional space available to accommodate new companies on site. , indicates the plan.

LHP Engineering Solutions has conditionally pledged more than $ 15 million of its own funds to two of the projects in the plan, although it is not clear at this time which projects the company could help fund, according to the announcement.

The Walesboro project has been envisioned and considered by Columbus officials for several years.

“When fully built, the facilities will test and certify autonomous applications, noise / vibration / handling, braking, highway, electric vehicle and others,” says the plan.

NexusPark

The funding would also help fund part of the NexusPark project at the former FairOaks Mall site in Columbus.

The City of Columbus has a projected $ 33 million commitment to the project, including construction of an indoor sports complex, recreational facilities, Columbus Parks administrative offices, community fitness facilities, areas non-sporting activities and community gathering spaces.

The Columbus Regional Hospital has committed $ 35 million for healthcare facilities, including physician offices, diagnostic services, wellness spaces, and physiotherapy and occupational therapy spaces.

READI funds would be used to support the currently unfunded outdoor campus and connecting facilities, including community park spaces, people’s trails and access to a transit hub, according to the announcement.

Other projects

The funding would also help support other projects in Bartholomew County, including the Columbus Riverfront Project and a hotel and conference center in downtown Columbus, among others, the plan says.

The funding would also help fund a parking lot that would support the hotel and conference center and other events and festivals in downtown Columbus and help start construction of the waterfront redevelopment plans between the decks of the second and third streets in downtown Columbus which could start. next year and will last about 18 months.

Jackson County Projects

In Jackson County, the grant would help support the addition of a digital manufacturing manufacturing space to the Seymour High School Owl Manufacturing program and to expand agricultural science / technology programs at the school.

In March, Seymour Community School Corp. plans to launch a $ 52.5 million construction project, the plan says. The digital manufacturing manufacturers space and an agricultural science center represent a $ 10.0 million component of this expansion.

“To fully equip all of these degree programs with the equipment necessary to meet industry standards, as well as to meet the needs of a growing student population, support from READI is needed,” the plan says.

READI funds, along with donor money, would also be used to purchase equipment and renovate facilities as part of the Jackson County Learning Center expansion project.

Jennings County Projects

In Jennings County, the grant would help support, among other things, the development of a 123 lot subdivision on the west side of North Vernon called the Knobstone Subdivision.

The grant would also help support the project to provide high-speed Internet access to 3,400 properties in rural Jennings County, nearly one-third of the homes in those parts of the county.

To read the proposal from the region representing Bartholomew, Jackson and Jennings counties, visit https://www.southcentralreadi.com/.


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