READI Proposal Seeks $ 50 Million State Grant for Various Projects | New William M. Brito October 16, 2021 Private Baptist Local and regional officials are seeking tens of millions of dollars in funding under a new statewide program for various economic and quality-of-life projects, including the hotel and conference center of the Kokomo city center and industrial park. The North Central Indiana Regional Planning Council (NCIRPC) recently submitted a 27-project proposal to the Indiana Economic Development Corporation seeking $ 50 million in READI grants to help complete the projects, which total more than $ 530 million in ‘public and private investments. The NCIRPC is made up of representatives from Howard, Tipton, Miami, Cass, Clinton and Fulton counties. The 160-page proposal includes demographics for the region and details a variety of local quality of life, housing and talent development projects. The NCIRPC hopes the state will help fund the projects and, in turn, free up local money so that it can be spent on other things. A total of 17 regional councils across the state submitted proposals, and each region is allowed to apply for up to $ 50 million in READI grants. The state has allocated $ 500 million to distribute, meaning not all regions will receive the maximum $ 50 million allowed under the program. Which projects get READI grants and how many will be decided by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors by the end of this year. ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES READI is a new state-created grant program aimed at pushing regions of Indiana together to create and implement strategies to enhance economic opportunities, workforce development and facilities in the area. While some regions have started this year, others, such as NCIRPC, have been around and helping fund regional projects for years. The program was launched in May with $ 500 million in the state’s biennial budget, with money received from the American Rescue Plan. Soon after, committees were formed in each region. Over the past two months, the committees have held several workshops and conducted public surveys to list the projects. Here are some of the more notable Howard County-centric projects: INDUSTRIAL PARK Perhaps the most transformative project in economic terms is the creation of Kokomo’s first ready-to-go industrial park. Long a goal of the Greater Kokomo Economic Development Alliance, the project has been a priority for the administration of Kokomo Mayor Tyler Moore, who has said in the past that negotiations with a landowner are underway. But details of the industrial park have been scarce. Until now. According to the READI proposal, the city, county and the Alliance are targeting more than 700 acres of land between Stellantis’ Indiana transmission plant and the future Kokomo engine plant and the US 31 in the far north of the city. for the future house of the industrial park. If and when the industrial park materializes, the NCIRPC believes it would transform the local and regional economy, attracting new employers and well-paying jobs. Right now, however, a smaller portion of the whole pie is the center of attention. The city, county and Alliance are set to purchase 142 acres of land adjacent to Indiana 931 and just south of County Road East 300 North as “phase 1” of the project, Moore told the Tribune earlier. this week. Once secured, the Alliance would own the land and, along with the city and county, would work to attract tenants. “This is something that I talked about that I felt was important to Kokomo and Howard County, as well as the region now,” Moore said of the industrial park. “The progress we’ve made over the past year and a half – we’re getting closer to closing the land and securing it so we can start the infrastructure – is a huge victory. “ According to READI’s proposal, these 142 acres have the potential to house 13 separate tenants in nearly two million square feet of space. “The development of Phase 1 will provide ready-to-go lots that will ultimately attract allied companies that support the region’s automotive industry leaders such as Stellantis by providing space for warehousing, potential suppliers, assembly and technological progress, ”the proposal says. The price of the first phase is budgeted at $ 11 million, with $ 6 million coming from local funds and the other $ 5 million from the READI grant – with the possibility of an additional $ 14 million in private funds – all of this. to complete the infrastructure needed to prepare the ground for potential businesses to move in. While the location next to Stellantis and the city’s other auto companies would make the industrial park attractive to other auto companies, Moore said the city hopes the sites ready for development will attract a larger group of companies. diversified so that the city and county are not dependent. exclusively on Stellantis, by far the county’s largest employer, for its economic health. “As wonderful as Stellantis has continued to invest in its footprint and facilities here, we now have an opportunity, with the completion of the US 31 Bypass… to build this fleet in order to attract other suppliers and companies, ”Moore mentioned. “Having something ready to shovel for them to settle down would be wonderful.” DOWNTOWN HOTEL AND CONFERENCE CENTER The downtown hotel and conference center project has come full circle. The original developer of the project, Dora Hotel Company, is back, as proposed by READI and confirmed by Moore. The project, initially announced in the summer of 2018, has seen three developers and delays due to this turmoil and, more recently, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the hospitality industry. But local officials say things are still underway for the project, now valued at an investment of $ 34 million, an increase from the price of $ 26 million in 2018, with the NCIRPC seeking $ 5 million in dollars. READI to strengthen $ 8.3 million in local money and $ 20.8 million. in private money. The adjoining conference center has grown from 22,000 square feet first announced in 2018 to 44,000 square feet and, as originally planned, will house the Kokomo Automotive Museum, according to the READI proposal. “The hotel and conference center will attract visitors and guests from all over the country to stay in the North Central region,” the proposal says. “This addition will boost tourism in local communities through excursions and tours, and provide a premier hotel option for top employers in the area, like Stellantis.” County and city officials remain convinced that the downtown hotel and conference is a question of when, not if – even with the project’s many resets. Moore, when asked about the status of the project, said it had not yet been finalized. “We are still in discussions with the preferred developer,” he said. “He’s still working on the numbers and the logistics on what it takes, but we’re a lot more optimistic about the start of the project than we have been in the past. So we’ll keep our fingers crossed that we can maybe turn the dirt around a bit next year. “ REGIONAL CULTURAL CENTER When the town of Kokomo purchased the old Douglass School building in the second half of 2019 for historic preservation, it was unsure at the time exactly what it wanted to do with it. When the Embracing Hope of Howard County nonprofit received the property, it asked the public for ideas on what should become of the old all-black school. In August, Rev. William Smith Jr. of the Secondary Missionary Baptist Church, who heads the nonprofit, told the Tribune that the organization wanted to turn the building into a museum and cultural center. Now, details are emerging on what exactly this use will entail. The Douglass School building intends to become a regional cultural center, as proposed by READI, which will offer programming for the other six counties, contacting them through partner agencies. READI’s proposal seeks $ 350,000 in funds to support $ 100,000 of local and private investment and indicates that the building can be operational in six to 12 months. Planned to be located in the historic Douglass School (named after human rights leader and abolitionist Frederick Douglass), the group’s mission is to create a relevant regional resource that inspires and unites all generations by telling the story of comprehensive history of American history while celebrating the history, knowledge and success of minority populations in the region, ”reads the READI proposal. “Initial programming will focus on African American, Native American and Latin American populations, but there are plans to expand offerings over time. The group worked directly with the regional campuses of Ivy Tech, Indiana University Kokomo, Kokomo Public Schools and other partners to help develop planned programming and support activities. The regional cultural center would be suitable for the building, which played a major role in the city’s African-American history from the early to mid-20th century. The school opened in 1920 as a racially segregated school; all black students of that age in Kokomo had to enroll in Douglass school. It would later merge in the mid-1950s with the all-white Willard School before closing in 1968. According to the proposal, READI money would be used for major building improvements, programming, and operating funding from facility rental costs, private donations, and local and federal grants. When complete, the installation will include: Museum exhibition space for rotating exhibitions telling the cultural history of the region. A heritage classroom that will allow area students to experience a 1940s learning environment. A family and historical research room to allow individuals from the region to research their personal history and genealogy. An event space and a heated kitchen to accommodate gatherings of up to 150 people. A small meeting space for small groups. A cultural store. The programming planned for the installation currently includes items such as: Literacy. Reading and public speaking lessons for young people. Summer bridging activities to support transition support at school level for regional kindergarten to grade 12 schoolchildren. The Douglas Scholars program which will provide mentoring opportunities to college students in the region. ESL courses. Single point of contact and clearinghouse for information on cultural programming and support services from other regions. 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