READI grant projects remain on track

At least one local economic development official remains confident the six Jackson County projects slated to receive READI grant funding remain on track despite a recent change in how that state can fund the program.

In December, the Indiana Economic Development Corp. announced READI grants totaling $500 million to 17 regions for economic development programs.

The South Central Indiana READI team, which includes Jackson, Bartholomew and Jennings counties along with the town of Edinburgh, came up with a wish list of $49.5 million for 26 projects.

That list included the six Jackson County projects with a cost of more than $7 million. Those projects included funding requests to help with a Uniontown sewer expansion, an expansion of the Seymour High School career and technical programs and an expansion of the Jackson County Learning Center in Seymour.

When the state announced in December that the READI grants had been approved, the South Central Indiana READI region’s request had been reduced to $30 million.

In mid-March, the IEDC announced some of the projects across the state might not be eligible for READI grant funds because the federal portion of the money for the program comes from the American Rescue Plan Act, which is focused on pandemic-related recovery and not general economic development.

Jim Plump, executive director of Jackson County Industrial Development Corp., said he believes all six projects in the county can be funded with ARP funding.

The question is since the state reduced the region’s total request from $49.5 million to $30 million, can the projects still move forward, he said.

“We are looking at each of these projects,” he said. “We’re going back and seeing if we can get these projects done with 60% funding.”

Plump said the consultant that the South Central Indiana READI region used has said the Jackson County projects all are good ones that can be funded with ARP monies.

The projects, estimated total budgets, READI grant funding requests and categories are:

Seymour High School career and technical programs expansion, $10 million, $2 million (innovation and entrepreneurship)

Jackson County Learning Center expansion, $2 million, $400,000 (education and workforce development)

Uniontown sewer expansion, $8 million, $2.4 million (housing and talent attraction)

Workforce/affordable multi-generational housing, $13 million, $695,076 (housing and talent attraction)

Chateau de Pique, $3 million, $600,000 (quality of place)

Don and Dana Myers Cancer Center linear accelerator project, $7 million, $1.4 million (quality of place)

The Seymour High School project is designed to equip students with the skills needed for postsecondary success by adding a digital manufacturing makerspace to the Owl Manufacturing program and expanding the school’s science and ag-tech programs.

The multi-generational housing project involves the development of a 64-unit complex for families and seniors in Seymour through Thrive Alliance, while the Uniontown sewer expansion is designed for housing and employer sites.

Chateau de Pique’s project would enhance the destination winery, brewery and wedding event center with onsite accommodations, production facilities and outdoor recreational amenities.

Plump said the team is looking at trying to obtain READI grant funding for two or three of the projects sometime this year so they can move ahead.

He also said the team was pleased county commissioners recently put their support behind the Uniontown sewer expansion project by hiring Indianapolis-based HWC Engineering for $25,000 to conduct a study to determine the best approach to the project.

Plump said a sewer expansion project is complicated and would involve state and federal permitting, among other things, which means it will require a lengthy amount of time to complete.

Once completed, however, the project has the potential to bring residential, commercial and even industrial development to Uniontown because of its location near Interstate 65.

“We believe it’s a good project for that area,” Plump said.

Besides Plump, the others Jackson County representatives on the South Central Indiana READI team are Dan Davis, president and chief executive officer of the Community Foundation of Jackson County, Seymour Mayor Matt Nicholson and Matt Reedy, president of the Jackson County Commissioners.