South Central Indiana Submits READI Proposal seeking $49.5 million to support $378 million in projects

A region with deep roots in collaboration has submitted a $49.5 million READI grant proposal to the State of Indiana to support $378 million in projects to stimulate housing, regional amenities, workforce training and innovation.

The ambitious plan was developed through a collaboration of communities, non-profit organizations and employers who are located largely in Bartholomew, Jackson and Jennings Counties. The region includes, but is not limited to, the communities of Columbus, Seymour, North Vernon and Edinburgh, which brings portions of Johnson and Shelby counties into the plan as well. 

Plan organizers expect the targeted investments to lead to a growing population, enhanced educational attainment and increased job opportunities for the region’s 156,000 residents.

The grant proposal describes the vision of the South Central Indiana Talent Region as being built on three principles: powerful technologies, prosperous communities and a resilient future. Inspired by the vision and guided by public input, the region’s proposal calls on four strategies:

  1. Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  2. Education and Workforce Development
  3. Housing and Talent Attraction
  4. Quality of Place

The 187-page proposal offers details on 25 agreed upon projects and initiatives to be implemented in the region:

Strategy 1: Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Key projects to support Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the region include investments in a new mobility test park and proving ground at the site of the former Walesboro Airport in Columbus, a project that has been envisioned for several years, plus funding for the new Propeller Innovation Center on the AirPark Columbus campus, and expansion of the Seymour High School Owl Manufacturing program.

Strategy 2: Education and Workforce Development

Investments under this strategy will be made for the expansion of programming at the Jackson County Learning Center and construction of a new Panther Technology Education Center by the Jennings County School Corp. Another significant project will support a Campus Access and Student Success project at the AirPark Columbus campus which is the shared home of the Columbus Learning Center, Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence and regional sties of Indiana University Purdue University Columbus, Ivy Tech Community College and Purdue Polytechnic Institute with a combined student population of about 5,000 individuals.

Strategy 3: Housing and Talent Attraction

Projects include a 200-unit market rate complex in downtown Columbus, 123 new homes in the North Vernon Knobstone subdivision, 64 units of workforce and multi-generational housing in Jackson County, and a new 35-home development in Edinburgh. The plan also calls for other regional initiatives and housing incentive programs, including the innovative “Welcome Home Talent Attraction Program” which plans to offer a reverse scholarship to returning college graduates who move back to the region within five years of graduation, along with down payment and rent assistance to those relocating to the region for new career opportunities.

Strategy 4: Quality of Place

One of the largest projects to support this strategy will be the redevelopment and adaptive reuse of the mostly vacant 400,000 square foot Fair Oaks Mall into the new NexusPark – a regional health, wellness, sports and fitness facility to offer healthcare services to the region’s residents while also attracting sports tourism from around the Midwest. In Jennings County, the Quarry Adventure Park will see a former stone quarry become a new public park and recreation center, and in Jackson County, an expansion of Chateau de Pique will enhance tourism at the destination winery, brewery and event center. Downtowns throughout the region will also benefit from a new Downtown Revitalization Fund, enabling projects in any of the region’s communities. Additional investments will be made in the proposed Columbus Riverfront Project, a new downtown hotel and conference center, and other projects.”

In developing projects to implement the strategies, a Steering Committee comprised of representatives from each of the three primary counties, including Seymour Mayor Matt Nicholson and Jim Plump, executive director of Jackson County Industrial Development Corp. selected HWC Engineering to facilitate workshops, surveys and other meetings to gather public input from residents, local governments and employers in the region.

Among the rules of the READI grant program is a requirement that all READI funds be matched on a dollar-for-dollar basis by local governments or other public sources. The State program also has a goal of attracting up to a 3:1 match of private funds. The South Central Indiana Talent Region has surpassed the State’s goals by proposing projects that will garner more than a 2:1 match of local dollars and a 4:1 match of private funds, for a total match that equals $6.65 to every $1 of requested READI funds. 

“The READI grant is an opportunity to create partnerships that will lead to true transformation in our individual communities and our region as a whole,” Nicholson said. “This program has allowed and encouraged us to work together in a way that truly serves a larger purpose – a purpose of what is good for one of us is good for all of us. This will bring great attention to our communities and help us prosper for many, many years to come.”

For all the details about the South Central Indiana Talent Region’s 2021 Regional Development Plan Submission for the Indiana Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative (READI) Grant, visit


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