State officials have approved the first projects for funding from the Regional Cities Initiative and could approve dozens more in the coming weeks.
The three approved so far are in the Northeast region, which is taking a different approach to the planning process than its counterparts in North Central and Southwest Indiana.
Regional Cities is the state's first major effort to motivate counties to collaborate on economic development. It's doling out $42 million each to three regions: the Evansville area, the Elkhart-South Bend metro area, and 11 counties around Fort Wayne.
Each region is now submitting projects for state approval.
Funding amounts listed for North Central and Southwest Indiana projects are as planned, and may change when projects are submitted for or receive state approval. Northeast projects listed are those that have received state approval for Regional Cities funding so far.
The first three approved are in and around Fort Wayne – a downtown mixed-use development known as Skyline Towers, and expansions at the city’s University of St. Francis and Angola’s Trine University.
Michael Galbraith is helping lead the Northeast regional cities planning effort. He said they’re first out of the gate because they started sending in projects sooner.
The Northeast region is so large – eleven counties, including Allen – that its team is choosing proposals to submit to the state on a first-come, first-served basis, Galbraith said, rather than as one big group.
"So the projects that have been approved already are going on right now," he said. "They're not just waiting for stuff -- they're actually breaking ground, they're actually doing construction, they're actually opening up."
Meanwhile, the Southwest picked all of its projects as a group -- 11 proposals to use all $42 million. The biggest request would help fund the research campus at Indiana University School of Medicine in Evansville. Officials will submit their requests for state approval between now and next spring.
The North Central region used the same approach – it chose 15 projects, to use about 90 percent of its funds. Those include money for the Studebaker factory renovation, and mixed-use downtown developments in South Bend, Elkhart and Mishawaka.
State officials couldn’t confirm which of the North Central region's proposals were currently under review.
The state money can only cover 20 percent of each project's cost, and local authorities have to line up the rest from public and private sources.
Michiana Partnership director Regina Emberton, in South Bend, said they haven't finished doing that for all their projects, but they wanted to take a holistic approach.
"If we get to mid-2017 and projects don't have really 100 percent readiness to move forward," Emberton said, "then we'll take those funds and re-allocate them into other opportunities that have demonstrated that they're ready to go."
The three regions have up to four years to submit projects for state approval.