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Southwest Indiana Wins Maximum Development Funds

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The Evansville area was awarded $50 million

For the past year, the Evansville Regional Economic Development partnership has been making its pitch to get some of a $500 million dollar pot from the state to invest in the area. As WNIN’s Sarah Kuper reports, the governor’s office announced the awards on Tuesday:

The money is readi – that’s R-E-A-D-I standing for Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative. Or as Evansville economic development officials now call it – $50 million dollars.

Greg Wathen, co-CEO of Evansville regional economic partnership and his team prepared and presented to state decision-makers dozens of plans and projects that could strengthen and grow the region’s economy. Now that the funds have been awarded he says he and private sector partners are ready to go. He explains a few of the priorities:

“The whole idea of River Vision, reimagining how we engage with the water/warrick county sports park/housing”

After all, Wathen says the purpose of any of the READI projects is to drive one thing:

“Population growth drives so much activity whether it is reinvesting in to the marketplace, new companies coming in, receiving federal tax dollars, it is all based on population.”

The Evansville region was one of seventeen areas trying to get a share of the money. Wathen says $50 million dollars is exactly how much Evansville officials had in mind. But that isn’t enough for all the partnership has planned – not even close. But, Wathen says, that’s the whole point:

“Bring along the private sector, that’s part of the requirement. The READi funds, that will only represent 20% of the money, got to come up with the other 80% somewhere so that’s going to come from the private sector.”

Wathen says the possibilities that come with this new money goes beyond pretty new parks or high tech research labs:

“When you look at economic development it needs to be transformational. You are changing regions and changing people’s lives, rather than a series of transactions that are interesting but not connective. As you make decisions today, how will they impact lives tomorrow?”

State decision makers said the majority of the $500 million dollars was spread through nine regions but each of the 17 received at least five million. Wathen says he would not be surprised if more funding programs like READi emerge in the near future.

“It isn’t the end of the story because the state is looking at the ability through the current surplus and legislative session coming up, is there a way to put more money into the pot for these programs, can we leverage other programs the state has, redevelopment tax credit or any of the funds through cares act. The state has recognized that economies are regional and that quality of place matters and ability to attract and retain talent.”

Wathen says the regional economic partnership is already springing into action with behind the scenes work but it may be months to years before the proposed projects are underway.