Indiana's Economic Recovery Plan was on the mind of everyone who attended a regional meeting held by The Indiana Economic Development Council (IEDC) and the Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA) Monday.
The two groups have been mandated by Gov. Mitch Daniels to facilitate the coordination and submission of projects for federal funding programs in order to receive the most federal dollars possible for the state. This is a result of a recent additional $95 million in federal funding allocated for long-term disaster recovery.
This meeting was a first step in helping communities understand the basics of the program. There are two pots of money, and each has its own application and guideline process coming down at the same timeline.
"This is a fact finding and data discovery meeting," OCRA's executive director David Terrell told an overflowing crowd. "Indiana has not and will not receive a check for any federal funding program. And, not all quality projects will receive federal funding."
Terrell went on to explain that it is IEDC's goal to guide projects to the most appropriate funding sources.
According to Terrell, two things precipitated the meeting -- disaster recovery and the new stimulus plan and its funding opportunities.
"We want to be in good shape when stimulus dollars come down," he said.
One of the first steps in achieving that goal is the gathering and analyzing of economic development projects. The University of Southern Indiana (USI) and Ball State University (BSU) are creating a huge databank of information on projects by county. Currently there are 6,800 projects listed in the databank with another 1,000 expected to be added.
City and county officials from Putnam, Warren, Clay, Owen, Montgomery, Vermillion, Vigo, Greene, Fountain, Morgan, Parke, Benton and Monroe counties were all at the meeting Monday.
Each county declared a natural disaster was given a list of projects that have already been submitted for funding for infrastructure projects necessary for the economic recovery of their area. They were asked to add any projects that were not on the lists.
Putnam County has 46 projects already in the request process. On Monday, they added 12 more. The county has until March 9 to complete the applications for funding.
Among the projects added are 36 bridges that were flood damaged, the recovery and reconstruction of county roads and ditches damaged by floods, and a project for stream bank reconstruction, stream cleanout and debris removal.
Additionally, each county was asked to provide a list of several countywide goals centered on economic development.
Putnam County officials added seven goals that included recovery for damaged infrastructure, improving the quality of life, growing the economic base, improving energy efficiency for public buildings, upgrading the infrastructure and making public safety improvements.
"This is all part of preparing. So long as we get our projects in the pipeline, some funding will come to us," said Bill Dory, executive director of Putnam County Economic Development.
Terrell admitted to the group that in Indiana some disaster funds were greater amounts than what the areas might receive from the economic stimulus.
"Some counties are eligible for both. We are just waiting for HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) to give us guidelines for the distribution of the funds," added Terrell.
One major glitch in the process is that three projects of five submitted for recovery grant monies from the Lilly Endowment Fund have been tentatively approved but appear to be on hold.
With news that there will be more money available from the stimulus plan for counties, representatives for projects recently approved for the recovery grant money are waiting for more details on what hoops they now have to jump through to get the money for the approved designated projects.
"It would be nice to have some of that disaster money for the highway this summer," commented Putnam county planner Kim Hyten.
OCRA officials say they too are waiting for information and guidelines from HUD for the disaster relief money to be released.
"We're trying to work with USI and BSU to sort by subject matter to state agencies. We don't know what the mechanism is yet because we are doing this on the fly, as we understand this process. The database should help us," said Terrell.
Dory thinks the database will help Putnam County.
"There are lots of people in the community making sure Putnam County gets money from these two pots," he said. "Having the database will help the state look at what resources are available to help support communities across the state."
"This is the first time I can remember that somebody has actually compiled a large scale list indicating what they would like to have to improve life in Indiana," he added.
Many of these projects need to be done in next five to 10 years. The database will help the state look at what resources are available to help support communities across the state with funds.