By Rich Overmoyer, President and CEO
On Tuesday, December 14th the Governor of Indiana announced the successful applicants of the $500M Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative (READI) initiative. This program allowed communities around the state to assemble into self-defined regions organized to define a vision for their future and a portfolio of investments needed to get there. READI guidelines told them to focus on advancing quality of place, quality of life, and quality of opportunity in order to attract and retain top talent throughout the state of Indiana. Yes, this is guidance from a state-level economic development office.
Hopefully, other states are taking note for 3 reasons:
1. The ‘pain’ is worth it: While not always the easiest process bringing together a region to define its shared vision and what it should invest in to retain and attract talent pays dividends. As the READI process shows if regional leaders can get beyond the day-to-day skirmishes they can dream big. Submissions from the 17 regions amounted to more than $1.5 billion in demand and detailed nearly 800 projects and programs with a potential investment of $15.2 billion. While only a third of the funds were allocated I can guarantee that projects will advance even without READI funds.
2. Indiana is making a statement: For years they have engineered their economic development support system to be one of the most competitive in the country. The new Secretary of IEDC shared details of their new strategic plan recently that highlights five “E”s. Environment - focussed on improving the quality of place for urban and rural communities; Economy - a focus on industries of the future; Entrepreneurship; Energy - including transitioning to more renewable energy and External Engagement - telling the Indiana story. (I was not paid to post this).
3. A Scale for Impact: While most government programs seem to be guided by the ‘what’s the least minimally viable investment we need to make’ concept, Indiana has made a statement. It believes in its regions - its communities and leaders. It believes that investment in quality of place is a critical part of an economic development ecosystem. And, finally, it recognizes that great things happen when you bring together private, public and nonprofit sectors to focus on their future, together.
We were honored to support the development of three of the regional plans and were excited to hear that they received a combined commitment of $100M. In future posts we will share more about how their regions are advancing their strategies and what lessons we can all learn. For now, I think we should all congratulate Indiana on what will be a memorable announcement for years to come.