Three Indiana regions will receive millions under the statewide Regional Cities Initiative because they created strong plans to improve quality of life and marketing efforts, says Michael Hicks, an economist at Ball State University.
The Indiana Economic Development Corporation Board of Trustees selected three regions — northeast, north central and southwest — to receive $42 million each. Originally, there were only going to be two winners.
Seven regions submitted proposals, totaling more than 400 projects and $4 billion.
“I read all the plans, and it is pretty clear that these three regions stood apart from the others,” says Hicks, director of Ball State’s Center for Business and Economic Research. “The tax amnesty program brought in far more revenue than even the most optimistic forecast, and there were three highly meritorious plans. I think asking the state for an additional Regional Cities funding opportunity make sense.”
He believes the Regional Cities Initiative has thus far been so successful that the legislature ought to explore ways to help replicate the success of these three regions in other places.
“For the Indianapolis and Northwest region that might be authorizing more local fiscal flexibility for the expansion of transportation infrastructure,” Hicks says. “For Muncie, Terre Haute and the Louisville suburbs in southeast Indiana, assistance on building regional planning efforts from the ground up would likely help speed the success that Evansville, Fort Wayne and the Elkhart/Goshen/South Bend region have enjoyed.
“Again, it is hard to overstate how closely this has been watched by other states and how much potential investment in Indiana’s regional cities has been organized around this otherwise modest public spending initiative.”