Small Town, Historic Future

Madison, Ind., to compete for state grant
to pursue several major projects

The 'READI' grant was created
from federal COVID-19 relief funds

(December 2021) – Madison, Ind., Mayor Bob Courtney, a handful of city employees and local business people have been busy preparing for a presentation scheduled for Dec. 3 in Indianapolis to pitch for state funding to embark on a number of economic development initiatives to be completed in downtown Madison.
These initiatives are part of a grant application – one of many competing applications from 18 economic regions – in the state’s Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative, or READI. Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb is credited for pushing the $500 million program through the Legislature with the goal of maintaining the state’s economic momentum and accelerating the state’s economic growth, according to information about the program online at the Indiana Economic Development Corp. website. The program is a way for groups of cities and counties to advance projects for improving the quality of life and economies in their areas by attracting private investment.
Already, the program is being hailed as a bold, transformational initiative that will make Indiana a magnet for talent and economic growth.

12-21 cover

December 2021 Cover

“Through this initiative, the state will encourage neighboring counties, cities and towns to partner to create a shared vision for their future, mapping out the programs, initiatives and projects that are critical for them to retain talent today and attract the workforce of tomorrow,” according to information on the website. “READI is expected to attract at least $2 billion of local public, private and philanthropic match funding that will propel investment in Indiana’s quality of place, quality of life and quality of opportunity.”
In a comment posted from Gov. Holcomb, he says, “READI will help harness a natural synergy of regional economic development leaders and private industry professionals to implement strategic investments in quality of place and innovation. We encourage stakeholders to collaborate and think big. Focus not only on shovel-ready, but on multi-year programs to develop talent, drive innovation and improve the quality of life that will transform our great Hoosier state for future generations to come.”
All of Indiana’s 92 counties were grouped into 18 economic regions to compete as separate groups for the funds. Jefferson County is part of the Southern Indiana Region that also includes Clark, Floyd, Scott and Washington counties. Each region is collaborating to develop bold, strategic plans to accelerate small- and large-scale growth within its communities and work to secure matching funds through the state’s $500 million initiative.
The goal is for these regional development plans to show how the region will be transformed from its current state to one that leverages unique opportunities and removes barriers to growth to advance its future. 

Grocery rendition

Rendition provided

This rendition shows what a future neighborhood grocery might look like at the site of the former Ruler Grocery in Madison, Ind.

Across the state, regions are already convening broad, diverse groups of stakeholders, including major employers and anchor institutions, education partners, economic development professionals, philanthropy partners and elected officials to outline their regional development plans. In these plans, regions will map out their proposal to invest in their growth and prosperity, outlining a series of strategies focused on physical projects and sustainable, multi-year programs to advance quality of place, quality of life, and quality of opportunity.
The IEDC’s investment in a region’s plan is expected to have a match from local public and private sources and can include strategies focused on physical projects, such as infrastructure, workforce housing developments, the revitalization of blighted or vacant properties and cultural amenities, as well as sustainable, multi-year programs, such as talent attraction initiatives, public private partnerships to advance innovation in industry and small business support services. 
Holcomb announced the program last January by using federal COVID-19 relief funding to create the grants. The Indiana Legislature approved the funding for it in March. The 18 regions were given until Sept. 30 to submit their plans. In October, state officials announced they had received and are reviewing competing proposals from 17 of the 18 regions, and that the funding requests altogether totaled more than double the $500 million that is available in the grant program.

Bridge lights

Rendition provided

This rendition depicts a Milton-Madison Bridge with multi-changing LED lights.

A seven-member committee including business executives is expected to make grant recommendations to the IEDC board in December after hearing the round of presentations, the state agency said.
They plan to award the grant funds by Dec. 16, according to IEDC officials.
In Madison, Mayor Courtney is touting the program as a game-changer for the community.
He is hoping that should the Southern Indiana Region’s plan be accepted, Jefferson County could stand to receive as much as $6 million to $8 million in state funding. But that would mean even more money available for local projects when city and matching private funds are added. He said the grant is a 60-20-20 match, with 60 percent coming from private investment, 20 percent from the state READI grant and 20 percent from the city. The requirement is that the city match the READI grant portion dollar for dollar, whatever that amount is, Courtney said.
“The goal of the program is to take that $500 million grant money, match it with local contributions and then leverage it up with private capital investment. And it’s already generated a potential amount of investment. But that $500 million dollars could very easily turn into $4-$5 billion dollars statewide over the next two years.”
Due to the competitiveness of the READI grant program, Courtney said that Madison’s proposal leaned heavily on up front commitments from the private sector.

Park rendition

Rendition provided

This rendition shows what a future Madison Bicentennial Park might look like with enhanced facilities for live music events.

“We took a step back and started compiling our partnership list and ask ourselves what are our economic development priorities and who are our partners because there is a tremendous amount of dependency on private investment,” he said.
“And so we want to make sure we are matching it up to our needs and the needs of our private partners. These include quality of life initiatives and infrastructure and investment for business expansion, for housing or other innovations by local businesses. So by partnering with local businesses that allowed us to leverage up the READI dollars. Our approach was to come to the table with more private investment available.”
Courtney’s core team who worked on the application includes Nicole Schell, the city’s Director of Planning, and Alyssa Foltz, newly hired to the city staff as Associate Economic Development Officer and Grant Writer.
Schell also worked on the Stellar Communities project that led to Madison being selected as a Stellar Community in 2017, thereby qualifying it to receive funds to conduct several major projects.
“The City of Madison’s READI submission builds off the successful planning for Stellar Communities and continues to push quality of life projects to the forefront,” Schell said. “Should the city receive READI funds, we are looking at doing more projects with a bigger impact than possible with Stellar Communities. The plan aims to have over $153 million invested into our community compared to the planned $56 million with Stellar.”

Bob Courtney

Bob Courtney

Courtney said his team actually created two plans – a Workforce Development plan and the downtown Destination Development plan. It was the latter plan that was selected by the regional authority. In all, he said 52 plans or proposals were submitted to the Southern Indiana Regional Development Authority, but only about 15 were chosen.
“They selected our Destination Madison plan as one that is going to have a regional benefit. Gov. Holcomb is looking for regional collaboration,” Courtney said. “So it was less about what are you going to do to improve your streets in Madison. It’s more about what can you do to improve your community that benefits the region. And our Destination Development plan, I think, hit all of the primary priority scoring elements because it’s about highlighting the region and attracting people to our region.”
Madison’s Destination Development plan includes the following focal points:
•  Luring a private company to come in and establish a downtown neighborhood grocery at the location of the former Ruler Foods;
• Improvements to the riverfront, including making Bicentennial Park more music friendly and building the Super Overlook for which the Madison Riverfront Development Corp. is fundraising. This initiative is in support of the ongoing Madison Music Movement, which is making an effort to make Madison known as Indiana’s Music City;
• Developing the “Gateway” into Madison where motorists are coming off the Milton-Madison Bridge. The city already has purchased properties on both sides of the roadway to develop a Welcome Center and park-like setting. The plan includes lighting up the bridge with changeable LED lights;
• Developing the Mulberry Street corridor that includes a redesign of the parking lot next to the  completed murals. This would support the mural project that was completed in October by the Madison Area Arts Alliance and its partners;
Courtney said that due to the planning that already has occurred the past two years, “regardless of how much money we get from the grant, we already have a road map for our future development and we already have those private partnerships.”

Nicole Schell

Nicole Schell

In a statement released in October, Holcomb said that he was impressed with the submitted proposals coming from statewide.
“I have no doubt these plans will be the beginning of transformational progress that will impact Hoosiers for generations to come,” Holcomb said.
Legislators initially dedicated $150 million toward the program. That funding total was increased to $500 million when the state budget was bolstered by $3 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funding.

More information, including answers to frequently asked questions and detailed guidelines on regional development plans, is available online at www.IndianaREADI.com..

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