Editorial: READI funding is building on regional successes

The $30 million in state funding awarded to a region including Bartholomew, Jackson and Jennings counties, plus the town of Edinburgh, matched the amount the region was awarded in the same program a couple of years ago.

And “match” is a key word when talking about grant money in the READI program, which stands for Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative. That’s because the READI money must be matched by public and/or private local dollars. This grant money serves as a catalyst to get big projects moving. And this year, this state’s $500 million pool of project money also is being matched by $250 million from the Lilly Endowment, enhancing an effort that boosts local economies.

When the first round of READI money was awarded in 2022, the $30 million our region received supplemented funding for these and other projects: NexusPark in Columbus, the Columbus Riverfront Project, a single-family home subdivision development in North Vernon, the renovation of an inpatient unit on the third floor of Schneck Medical Center in Seymour, and the extension of Main Street in Edinburgh.

For READI 2.0, the grants awarded earlier this month will facilitate other big designs. As The Republic’s Andy East wrote, plans include a potential vehicle innovation center at the former Walesboro airport, which would be a collaborative effort between LHP Engineering and FORVIA to design, prototype and test next-generation mobility technologies. Another major project listed for potential funding was the CityView District, Columbus Regional Health’s proposal to develop about 700 acres of agricultural land that the hospital system owns on the city’s west side.

The projects that ultimately benefit from READI 2.0 dollars will be determined by local leaders and stakeholders from the communities that make up the our READI area, called the South Central Indiana Talent Region.

“The local region’s application focused on innovation and entrepreneurship, education and workforce development, housing and quality of place,” East wrote. “State officials said the themes of the local region’s application were ‘inspire and cultivate collaboration among companies and communities to build powerful technologies, prosperous communities and a resilient future by focusing on innovation and entrepreneurship, education and workforce development, housing and quality of place.’”

Columbus Mayor and READI steering committee member Mary Ferdon noted that the region’s grant was the second-highest in the state on a per capita basis, which speaks highly for the relative quality of the proposals local leaders are advocating.

And the $30 million in READI 2.0 funds could get even better when Lilly Endowment funds are disbursed later this year. Our region could potentially receive several million more dollars for local projects. We don’t know how much our region might receive from the Lilly match, but leaders have reason for optimism.

The READI program, and this year the Lilly Endowment as well, are seeding communities with flexible funding that, when combined with other investments, could yield bountiful returns. Indiana should find a way to make the READI program a staple in our state’s economic development mix.