economic development

Photo by Michael Johnson

White County is among six counties in the Greater Lafayette Region collectively seeking $50 million to grow the area’s population and workforce.

LAFAYETTE — Leaders across the Greater Lafayette Region have launched a new regional economic development plan that seeks $50 million in Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative (READI) dollars to grow the area’s population and workforce.

The Greater Lafayette Region includes White, Carroll, Benton, Fountain Tippecanoe and Warren counties.

The plan, developed by a board of directors made up of economic and commerce officials, as well as mayors and county commissioners, aims to retain existing and recruit new talent to increase the region’s population. It also focuses on creating more housing for that expected population and workforce growth.

“With our shared regional history of getting things accomplished, the state should look at this Regional Economic Development plan and know that we can accomplish it,” said Dr. Aaron Baute, chancellor of Ivy Tech Community College.

Scott Walker, president and CEO of Greater Lafayette Commerce, said while talent attraction was already a focus prior to the pandemic, it now needs to be among the top priorities.

“We currently have more than 8,000 jobs available in our region, so we are excited about the Smart Relocations project, which is designed to attract new workers to our region to address that labor shortage,” he said.

Jake Adams, executive director of the Carroll County Economic Development Corporation, said a project in the plan will help communities invest in new housing needed to support an expanding population and workforce.

One project that garnered much support includes plans to build and connect trails systems along the area’s rivers. The Wabash River Greenway project builds on the work already being done by the Wabash River Enhancement Corporation, linking together trail systems in Carroll, White, Fountain, and Warren counties.

“We’d hoped one day to get there,” West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis said. “This plan can help us accelerate that vision.”

Another project proposed a new passenger terminal at Purdue University Airport to help bring commercial air service back to the Greater Lafayette area.

“Convenient access to commercial air service is increasingly important as our region continues to grow,” Benton County Commissioner Mike Freeland said. “Not only would it benefit the region’s businesses and industry, but it would also enhance our citizen’s quality of life.”

Other projects identified as key included expanding access to quality childcare.

“We need to invest as a region to increase the number of people we have in the workforce,” Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski said. “There are more than 5,000 children in our region whose parents, members of our potential workforce, need better access to high-quality childcare.”

Monticello Mayor Cathy Gross said she’s looking forward to working with area leaders should the Greater Lafayette Region plan be selected for funding.

“While we know our peers in the surrounding counties, this was our first time to work together on a project,” she said. “We are going to be able to accomplish great things together.”

READI is a program inspired by Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb to create regions around the state that work well together and focus on achieving specific talent and economic growth objectives.

The Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC), which is managing the READI program, plans to provide up to $50 million to 10 regions around the state, enabling them to execute on their plans. The economic development program is funded by the federal government’s American Rescue Plan.

The Greater Lafayette Region’s Regional Development Plan (RDP) is the culmination of four months of meetings between area elected officials, non-profits, and economic development organizations as part of the Greater Lafayette Economic Alliance, as well as representatives from Purdue University and Ivy Tech Community College.

The requests from each of Indiana’s 92 counties total more than $1 billion — twice the $500 million allocated for the program.

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