Regional officials announce call for proposals for READI 2.0 funding

Regional officials have announced a call for project proposals, seeking ideas on how to use $30 million in funding through an expanded state economic development initiative.

The South Central Indiana Talent Region, or SCITR, said Thursday that it has launched an “online project collector” for the public to submit ideas that regional officials will consider for funding through the initiative, called READI 2.0, or additional grant funding from the Lilly Endowment Inc.

The talent region, which comprises Bartholomew County, Jackson and Jennings counties, as well as the town of Edinburgh, was awarded $30 million through READI 2.0. The region could receive additional funding through the Lilly Endowment Inc., though officials said they are still waiting to hear how those funds will be rolled out.

READI 2.0 refers to the second round of funding to regions across the state through the Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative, which is led by the Indiana Economic Development Corp.

“Considering the current award from the IEDC and because the (the Lilly Endowment Inc.) funding program detail has just been released, the SCITR team has created an online project collector to gather project ideas from the public to be evaluated for consideration in both the final READI 2.0 submission and for the (Lilly Endowment Inc.) submission,” the talent region said in a press release.

Proposed projects can be submitted for consideration at until 5 p.m. May 2

Regional officials said they will submit an application later this year that includes plans on how they will use the $30 million.

For the second round of funding, state officials focused more on each region’s overall strategy rather than just asking for a list of potential projects that could be funded through the initiative.

The local region’s application focused on innovation and entrepreneurship, education and workforce development, housing and quality of place.

However, the region’s application also highlighted a few potential projects in its funding proposal that regional officials thought could be a good fit for READI 2.0 funds, including a potential vehicle innovation center at the former Walesboro airport.

The center would be a collaborative effort between LHP Engineering and FORVIA to design, prototype and test next-generation mobility technologies, including electric vehicles and alternative fuel technologies, Jason Hester, president of the Greater Columbus (Indiana) Economic Development Corp., said previously.

FORVIA refers to one of the world’s largest automotive suppliers, which was formed after France-based Faurecia acquired a controlling stake in German automotive parts supplier HELLA in 2022.

Another project that regional officials listed in their proposal was the CityView District, which is an effort by Columbus Regional Health to develop about 700 acres of agricultural land that the hospital system acquired on the city’s west side in 2018.

A master plan released by CRH last year includes a 100-acre CRH campus on the north side of the site, as well as a variety of residential neighborhoods, mixed-use commercial and retail, office space, civic, community and green space, among other potential development opportunities.

The agricultural land, also known as the Garden City Farms property, stretches from Interstate 65 almost to State Road 11 and is located south of the westside Walmart and the north of the Bartholomew County 4-H Fairgrounds.

Columbus Mayor Mary Ferdon said previously that the committee thought that some infrastructure and design work for the project could be a good fit for READI 2.0.

Ferdon said previously that regional officials will likely first look at projects that were mentioned in their proposal and look at how the funds could be deployed across the region, though officials also want to hear from the community to see if there are any ideas that have arisen since the application was submitted.

The second round of funding comes just over two years after the local region was awarded $30 million of funding through READI 1.0, which local officials at the time described an “unprecedented” opportunity and a “game-changer” for the region.

While local officials later needed to make some tweaks as they navigated federal guidelines for the funding, several projects in the region received READI 1.0 funding.

Some of those projects include the Columbus Riverfront Project, NexusPark, a project to develop a single-family home subdivision in North Vernon, the renovation of an inpatient unit on the third floor of Schneck Medical Center in Seymour and the extension of MainStreet in Edinburgh, among several others, according to the Indiana Economic Development Corp.