UPDATE: SB region chosen for $42 million Regional Cities grant

Money can’t buy love, but can it make the South Bend region a place more people would love to live?

Today in Indianapolis, big ideas earned big money in the hopes that big dreams would come true.

“This is big. This is a big deal in Indiana, and I believe it's part of a third century strategy for growth that will pay dividends for generations,” said Governor Mike Pence, (R) Indiana.

Indiana’s Regional Cities Initiative promises to pay $42 million to a multi-county consortium made up of St. Joseph, Elkhart, and Marshall (the North Central Region). As the winners were announced today, consortiums in the Fort Wayne and Evansville regions were also promised $42 million dollar grants of their own

Funding was denied to four other county consortiums that submitted applications.

The Regional Cities Initiative is aimed at the younger generation and giving those people more reasons to love—than leave the state.

“All the population estimates suggest our area is going to decline in population over time and what Indiana realizes is we need to do some things that attract young people and attract talent,” said St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce President Jeff Rea.

The money is geared toward quality of life projects ranging from economic development and job creation, to improved recreational and arts opportunities.

Every dollar of state funding will have to be met with four dollars of local in investment, meaning the North Central region could be in line for an investment of $200 million in about two years’ time. “So the Renaissance District in South Bend is a huge project renovating the former Studebaker factory and administration building into a technology park,” said Regina Emberton of Michiana Partnership. “Elkhart has a significant project with a natatorium and a wellness center along with multi-use housing and mixed use projects going on.”

Even Warsaw stands to get into the act as one of 12 counties in the Fort Wayne consortium. Plans call for an $11 million renovation and expansion of the Wagon Wheel Theatre. “It’s been a hallmark in this community for many years and the thought of taking it to the next level in this capital investment is really exciting,” said John Sampson with the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership.

The Regional Cities Initiative was originally designed to fund just two winning consortiums. When three solid proposals came forward, officials decided they’d rather try to bend the rules than break one region’s heart. A motion was unanimously passed to ask the Indiana General Assembly to fund three instead of two winners.

The program is being funded through Indiana’s Tax Amnesty program which brought in a total of $137 million, with $21 million more expected through ongoing payment plans.

“And I think all of us want to retain our sons and daughters in the region. We want to offer them opportunities they may not all choose to stay ni the region but they should have the opportunity,” said John Affleck-Graves, Executive VP of the University of Notre Dame and Chairman of the North Central Regional Development Authority.


The Indiana Regional Cities Strategic Review Committee has approved grant funding for three regional development plans, including two in northern Indiana.

Each of the three regions will receive $42 million in state matching funds.

The North Central Region is comprised of St. Joseph, Elkhart, and Marshall counties.

The Northeast Region includes Kosciusko, LaGrange and Noble counties and is centered around Fort Wayne.

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. voted on the recommendations Tuesday afternoon.

The office of Gov. Mike Pence announced the grant program's review committee recommended three winners instead of two because a tax amnesty period that's funding the program has collected nearly $50 million above projections.

The additional funding would need approval by the General Assembly during the session that begins next month.

Peter McCown of the Elkhart Community Foundation said, “I’m highly confident that the governor and the legislature have been in conversation about this; and that if the IEDC and the Strategic Review Committee are making this recommendation in this public of a manner, that the funding will be there.”

Seven regional bids from around the state were submitted in recent months.

Pence has said the grant program was intended to encourage metro regions to work together more.

Governor Pence said, “When the tax amnesty program was created earlier this year to fund this initiative, we had a conservative goal of some $84 million with the intention of funding up to two regional plans under the Regional Cities Initiative."

"I’m happy to say that the tax amnesty program has been an overwhelming success for tax payers with $137.6 million in cash on hand and an additional $21 million forthcoming via payment plans," Pence continued, "The success of this program has given us the opportunity to seek and to fund three different regional proposals that will benefit people all over the state of Indiana.”

The grants are intended to pay for infrastructure or amenities that could help attract businesses and people.

We have a crew in Indianapolis, and we'll have a full report beginning on NewsCenter 16 at 11.

From the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership:

Northeast Indiana’s Road to One Million economic development plan was selected as a regional winner of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation’s (IEDC) Regional Cities funding.

Northeast Indiana’s winning Road to One Million plan, spearheaded by the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership and Greater Fort Wayne Inc., is the rallying cry for Northeast Indiana to reach one million residents. To achieve that goal, Northeast Indiana needs to accelerate the current annual growth rate from 0.7 percent annually to just over 2 percent.

The state’s $42 million funding, which will be matched through private investment locally, will support game-changing quality of place projects with the goal of economic growth, population growth and increasing national brand identity.

“This is a historic day for Fort Wayne and Northeast Indiana. The state’s matching funds will provide a huge boost to our determined battle for talent and good jobs in a global marketplace,” said John Sampson, President and CEO of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership. “Our thanks go to Governor Mike Pence and the Northeast Indiana delegation for their courage and leadership. Together, we take another step forward to strengthen Indiana’s competitive economic position in the Midwest.”

From the Indiana Economic Development Corporation:

In a report released today, the Indiana Regional Cities Strategic Review Committee outlines three recommendations, which, pending legislative approval, includes full funding of three regional development plans – North Central, Northeast and Southwest Indiana – at $42 million each in state matching funds.

This first recommendation calls for full funding of three regions, instead of two as originally planned, based on the financial success of Governor Pence’s 2015 Tax Amnesty Program, which was primarily created to fund the Indiana Regional Cities Initiative. According to the Indiana Department of Revenue, the program has already collected $137.6 million, with taxpayers agreeing to pay another $21.6 million via payment plans. Additionally, the report recommends that the state and the IEDC continue to support the regional development plans of Central, East Central, Northwest and West Central Indiana due to unprecedented levels of regional activity and collaboration sparked statewide by the initiative.

In the report, the Strategic Review Committee identifies the three regions recommended for full funding as Phase I and the four remaining regions as Phase II. While classified as Phase I and Phase II, the recommendations are meant to be carried out concurrently.

The Strategic Review Committee’s three recommendations outlined in the report, which is now available online, are as follows:
Recommendation No. 1: Seek any necessary approvals to allocate all Tax Amnesty Program revenues in excess of $90 million to the Indiana Regional Cities Initiative.
Recommendation No. 2: Subject to any necessary approvals for Tax Amnesty funds, award all three Phase I regional development plans (North Central, Northeast and Southwest) $42 million each.
Recommendation No. 3: Continued support of the four four Phase II regional development plans (Central, East Central, Northwest and West Central). This support may include assistance in identifying public or private funds for planning in order to encourage and enable the continued development of their regional plans. The amounts of any planning funds would be determined based on availability.
The Strategic Review Committee will vote to adopt this report today during the committee’s final meeting. At 2 p.m., the Strategic Review Committee will present its recommendations for approval to the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) Board of Directors. Both meetings are being held at the Ivy Tech Corporate College and Culinary Center (2820 N. Meridian St.) in Indianapolis.

The report also recommends that the state consider continued funding for the Indiana Regional Cities Initiative in future state budget cycles beginning in 2017 based on the impressive and visionary regional development plans and unprecedented collaboration that has occurred in each of the seven regions.