Six quality of place projects awarded ROI Ready Communities implementation grants totaling over $1 million

Regional Opportunity Initiatives (ROI) has awarded six quality of place grants in five Indiana Uplands counties in the latest round of Ready Communities Implementation Grants. More than $1 million has been awarded in the third round of this grant program.

The Ready Communities competitive grant program empowers counties and communities to strategically plan for, develop, and implement projects and programs that build quality of place, grow regional capacity for workforce development and attraction, and improve the attributes and amenities that make the Indiana Uplands a desirable place to live, work, and play. With the completion of the third round of funding, ROI’s Ready Communities initiative has awarded $3 million in grants supporting a total of 17 projects in nine counties.

This Spring, ROI delayed the third round of implementation funding out of concern that counties would not be in a position to prepare grant applications given the challenges presented by COVID-19. According to ROI President and CEO Tina Peterson, “restarting the program in May allowed 59 applicants to submit letters of intent for a wide range of quality of place projects, each uniquely designed to advance place-based opportunities in their communities.”

“We were inspired by the sheer number of applications and the innovative approaches communities were proposing for creating opportunity in the Uplands,” added Peterson. “It is clear that communities across our region are determined to stay the course when it comes to advancing quality of place for those who currently call our region home and for those we intend to attract to the Uplands.” 

Seventeen applicants were invited to submit full proposals, and eight of those ultimately made presentations to the evaluation committee.  At its October meeting, the ROI Board of Directors approved funding for six projects that align with Quality of Place and Workforce Attraction plans in individual counties and collectively make the Indiana Uplands a more attractive place to live, work, play, and raise a family.   

As in previous rounds, grants were awarded in amounts ranging from $100,000 to $250,000 per project, with funding in Round 3 totaling $1,069,400. Funded projects include:

Brown County Community Foundation to expand the Brown County Preschool program and Brown County High School’s Child Development Associate (CDA) educational pathway. This grant will expand the newly proposed three and four-year-old preschool program at Brown County Intermediate school to include a classroom for two-year children.  The program will operate in coordination with Brown County High School’s Child Development Associate’s path of study, addressing the need to develop a qualified workforce for early learning.

Daviess County Economic Development Foundation, Inc. to support Phase 1 of the WestGate@Crane gateway infrastructure project. This infrastructure project aligns with the newly completed WestGate@Crane masterplan and will include gateway and streetscape improvements at the main entryway into WestGate Certified Technology Park, including pedestrian connectivity, landscaping, water and sewer infrastructure to support park development, and an outdoor recreation “park within a park” concept. 

North Lawrence Community Schools to expand its childcare program and high school Child Development Associate (CDA) educational pathway. This grant will develop the new Playful Pathways Early Childhood Center to serve children birth to age five and provide hands-on experience to high school students participating in Bedford North Lawrence’s child development pathway.

Orange County Community Foundation to support the Paoli Community Playground Project. A new playground will offer community members and visitors the county’s only quality handicap-accessible recreational facility. This playground will come to life through a community build on the grounds of the Youth Sports Complex.  In addition to initial project grant funding, ROI is also including a matching grant to support the purchase of a rubber surface to improve the playground’s long-term accessibility and sustainability.

Washington County Community Foundation to support the Salem Pocket Parks- A Connection to Our Heritage project. Developed in partnership with the IU Center for Rural Engagement and IU ServeDesign Center, this project will include pocket parks for social gatherings, new green spaces, public art celebrating historic female citizens, and improved pedestrian connectivity between the central Square and cultural museums at the John Hay Center. 

An artistic rendering of a pocket park in Salem, IN.

Washington County Economic Growth Partnership to help fund the development of campsites and improved amenities at Lake Salinda near Salem, IN. ROI’s Lake Salinda grant is being made in collaboration with funding to be provided by the City of Salem to develop a walking and biking path connecting the city to the lake. Once all of these projects are completed, Lake Salinda will become an enhanced recreational hub for Washington County residents and regional visitors.

Ready Communities Grant Process

Counties began the Ready Communities planning process in the fall of 2018. Each Indiana Uplands county received a $50,000 planning grant to develop a Quality of Place and Workforce Attraction Plan. Completed Quality of Place and Workforce Attraction Plans can be viewed on the ROI website (https://regionalopportunityinc.org/ready-communities/plans/).

ROI committed a total of $3 million in three rounds of Ready Communities implementation grant funding for organizations in Indiana Uplands counties with completed Quality of Place and Workforce Attraction Plans. Funding categories for implementation grants included Aesthetics and Beautification Enhancements, Connectivity Infrastructure Development, and/or Community Cohesion & Support initiatives.

For details on projects awarded in the first two rounds of funding, visit the ROI website: https://regionalopportunityinc.org/2019/12/20/ready-communities-implementation-grants-2/

About Regional Opportunity Initiatives

The mission of Regional Opportunity Initiatives (ROI) is to advance economic and community prosperity in the 11 counties of the Indiana Uplands (Brown, Crawford, Daviess, Dubois, Greene, Lawrence, Martin, Monroe, Orange, Owen, and Washington counties). ROI is implementing education, workforce, and quality of place initiatives across the Uplands region. More information can be found at https://regionalopportunityinc.org/.

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