Southwest Central Indiana Announces Launch of Regional Development Initiatives

Eric Holcomb, Becky Skillman, Jeffrey Elder, Gerry Dick, Michael A. McRobbie, Joe Donnelly
Indiana Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb, left, Radius Indiana President/CEO Becky Skillman, Crane Naval Base Commander Capt. Jeffrey “JT” Elder, Inside INdiana Business Creator and Host Gerry Dick, Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie and U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly.

CRANE, Ind. – State and regional leaders, stakeholders and local officials gathered at WestGate Academy today to learn new details about the regional development initiatives designed to promote economic and community prosperity in Southwest Central Indiana. Lilly Endowment Inc. awarded three grants totaling $42 million for organizations in the region. The grants will support regional development initiatives in an 11-county area that encompasses Brown, Crawford, Daviess, Dubois, Greene, Lawrence, Martin, Monroe, Orange, Owen and Washington counties.

The funds will advance a range of activities focusing on research and development, workforce and education initiatives, and projects that enhance the region’s quality of life. Since grant funding was awarded in December 2015, a number of steps have been taken to implement initial elements of the initiatives.

Specific initiatives include:

  • Implementation of an education and workforce plan and a regional opportunity fund for quality-of-place investments funded by a $25,870,000 grant to Regional Opportunity Initiatives, Inc. (ROI). ROI is a newly-formed nonprofit with a mission to support regional development opportunities in the 11 counties of Southwest Central Indiana. Led by a regional board of directors, ROI is affiliated with the Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County (CFBMC). Current CFBMC President and CEO Tina Peterson is serving as interim chief executive officer of ROI.
    • ROI will implement an education and workforce plan focused on connecting education to industry, creating a native workforce that is prepared for the demands of employers. ROI will also implement a comprehensive and ongoing assessment of occupational needs within the region, initially focused on life sciences, advanced manufacturing and national security and defense sectors.
    • ROI will also create and oversee a Regional Opportunity Fund (ROF), seeded by grant funds, to serve as a source of support for strategic planning and investment in quality of place development that has the potential to benefit the entire region.
  • Establishment and development of an Applied Research Institute (ARI) to be located near the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane). Initially, it will be led by an advisory board comprising representatives of Crane, research universities in Indiana, and other corporate and institutional partners. Start-up expenses will be funded through a $16,225,000 grant to CICP Foundation, which supports the charitable and educational programs and activities of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership (CICP). The ARI will serve as a collaborative research facility for more efficient technology transfer and commercialization for industry, NSWC Crane, Indiana’s research universities, government, and entrepreneurs. Through the ARI, these groups will leverage more than $400 million worth of state-of-the-art laboratories and equipment within NSWC Crane, as well as $25 million worth of existing labs and facilities at the Battery Innovation Center and WestGate Academy.
  • Planning activities funded by $122,600 grant to Indiana University Foundation to explore the potential development of a Rural Center at Indiana University to study and address societal challenges found in rural communities.
Duane Embree Joe Donnelly

Tina Peterson

The region is well-positioned for a collaborative regional growth strategy that leverages its unique assets, including strong life sciences, defense and advanced manufacturing sectors; the third largest naval base in the world in NSWC Crane; a world-class education and research institution in Indiana University; and natural and entertainment amenities such as Brown County and French Lick. It’s also home to more than three thousand engineers, scientists and technicians and related faculty through NSWC Crane, Cook Group, Indiana University and other employers. In addition, the recent extension of I-69 brings greater connectivity to partners across the region.

“I challenge you to find another part of the country that has the diversity of relevant industry sectors, the breadth of world-class assets like Crane and Indiana University, and a quality of life that embraces both the charms of small-town America and the sophistication of global manufacturing and technology,” Peterson said. “To stand out nationally and claim our place as a center for innovation, talent, and possibility, we will work collectively as a region to achieve true economic and community prosperity that will benefit our 11 counties and the State of Indiana.”

Read the complete Strategic Plan.

Southwest Central Indiana Region Grant Announcement Michael A. McRobbie, Jeffrey Elder

About Lilly Endowment Inc.  

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based, private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family — J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons J.K. Jr. and Eli — through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company.  While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, the Endowment is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location.  In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education and religion and maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana.  More information can be found at

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