The Huntington County Council took action on May 18th to join the regional effort to create a Regional Development Authority in collaboration with the member counties of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership. The effort is in follow-up to action taken this year by the Indiana General Assembly to create a Regional Cities Program supported by the authorization of up to $84,000,000.00 in funding from the State of Indiana.
The Indiana Regional Cities Initiative is a public-private partnership led by Indiana Governor Mike Pence with support from the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC).
The goal is to transform Indiana's approach to economic development by creating dynamic communities that attract and retain talent. Region's have been invited to submit proposals by July 1 to the IEDC with a slate of "game-changing" quality of life enhancement project proposals. IEDC will select one or two winning regions to benefit from up to $84,000,000.00 in support to be matched at some level with regional, local and private sector investments. The State funds can only be disbursed via Regional Development Authority Entities (RDA).
The May 18th action by the Huntington County Council means Huntington County is the first County in Northeast Indiana to officially encourage the organization of the Regional Development Authority to move forward with Huntington County as a member. Counties can join the RDA without creating any financial obligations. Later, if local communities identify projects and would like the RDA's consideration, local entities can then publicly debate the potential for financial commitments, or not.
"The County Council's action is very encouraging," said Mark Wickersham, Executive Director of Huntington County Economic Development Corporation. "No financial obligations have been committed. The Council simply took official action to say, move forward with the organizational structure and include Huntington County as a Member," added Wickersham. "I have no idea if our region will win State dollars, however, without creating an RDA, there's no chance at all. If the State of Indiana is able to disburse $84,000,000.00 toward the initiative, I certainly want to do everything I can to see that Huntington County can compete for that opportunity," he said.
There is a steering committee regionally to shepherd the process of the RDA structure. Dr. Sheilyn Emberton, President of Huntington University
, is the Huntington County representative to that group. Dr. Emberton also, with logistical support from the Huntington County Economic Development Corporation, chairs a local group of volunteers working to identify logical project opportunities locally which might qualify for regional assistance. The local group, which intends to expand its membership, initially includes representatives from the City and County Government; tourism, non-profit organizations, educational institutions, and others.