Potential for second round of READI grants discussed


BROWNSTOWN — Late in 2021, the South Central Indiana Talent Region team learned it would receive $30 million in grants from a new state program for economic development projects throughout the three counties and one town in the region.

Six of the 30 projects that were funded are in Jackson County, but none are to be found in the county’s three towns.

Dan Robison, director of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce, and Arann Banks, executive director of the Jackson County Visitor Center, would like to see that change if a second round of grants from the Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative (READI) program should become available down the road.

On Monday evening, the two met with the Brownstown Town Council to discuss their thoughts on the subject.

“We’re here to talk about what we are just going to call READI 2.0,” Robison said. “We don’t know if that’s what it’s really going to be called or not.”

He said a year ago, there was a lot of talk about the READI program and the process of applying for grant monies.

“Our region, which is Jackson, Jennings and Bartholomew counties and the town of Edinburgh, were awarded just over $30 million,” Robison said. “Jackson County’s specific projects were just over $7 million.”

Jim Plump, executive director of Jackson County Industrial Development Corp., and his team really took the lead with the process, he said.

“… and they are still heavily involved in figuring out all of the nuances,” Robison said. “So we got awarded that. Now, what do we do? So there is still a lot of work going on with READI, but we have started hearing about there might be a READI 2.0.”

As time goes on, there has been more and more talk about that possibility, he said.

“The governor (Eric Holcomb) has alluded to it,” Robison said. “The Indiana Economic Development Corp. is talking about it, the chamber (Indiana Chamber of Commerce) is talking about it, so this is in the front of the minds of a lot of folks in Indianapolis.”

He said potentially, the state is looking at another round of READI funding during the 2024 budget cycle.

READI 1.0 was supposed to involve state funding, but most of the funding wound up coming from federal American Rescue Plan dollars, which came with a lot of constraints, Robison said.

It is believed READI 2.0 would be a state initiative with state funds, which would give the state control over the process, he said.

The window for applying for READI grants the first time was short. While Jackson County performed very well in coming up with a list of projects for READI 1.0, Robison said he felt it was done the hard way.

“So I think there is value in planning ahead now,” he said. “Even if READI 2.0 never comes or whatever the next thing if it is something different, it will not hurt us to have some shelf-ready projects as a community — and by community, I mean Jackson County — that are ready to go.”

Robison said that doesn’t mean the projects need to be shovel ready, but that they maybe have blueprints and kind of just need framing up.

“I think the more projects we have that are to that point, the better,” he said.

Robison also said the committee that wound up pulling together the projects for READI 1.0 were mostly from Seymour.

“That’s not what we’re wanting,” he said. “If we’re going to do this as a county, we need to do it as a county.”

Robison said he and Banks also plan to meet with town councils in Crothersville and Medora along with the Seymour City Council.

The purpose of those meetings is to start conversations to start formulating some plans both at the local and county level, he said.

“We want Brownstown to have a seat at the table with that planning,” Robison said.

He said he and Banks weren’t at the meeting to get the town council’s top 10 ideas for projects.

“I am asking you to start thinking about that and start the conversation,” he said.

Banks, who lives in Brownstown, said she knows there are needs in the county seat, and there is a lot of money out there.

“We just don’t want any of our smaller communities or anyone in the area to miss an opportunity,” she said.

Banks also told the council not to consider any project too big or too small.

Robison said he and Banks were putting the shelves up for potential shelf-ready projects.

“We’re here tonight to create that platform, that relationship, that communication with you all and other town boards and the county folks, too, so that we can all kind of get on the same page,” he said.

The Jackson County projects receiving funds from the initial READI program included a sanitary sewer system for the Uniontown area, an expansion of the Seymour High School career and technical programs, an expansion of the Jackson County Learning Center in Seymour and the addition of a linear accelerator at the Don and Dana Myers Cancer Center in Seymour.

Chateau de Pique, a winery, brewery and event center, also received READI funding to enhance its onsite accommodations, production facilities and outdoor recreational amenities, while a Thrive Alliance project to develop a 64-unit housing complex for families and seniors also received funding.

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