Greater Lafayette Region awarded $30 million in READI funding
After the state announced awards Tuesday for the Indiana Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative, or READI, the Greater Lafayette Region – a group that includes Tippecanoe, Fountain, Warren, Benton, White, and Carroll counties – emerged with $30 million in funding.
The program is intended to provide financial support for projects that enhance quality of life and attract workers. The state divided $500 million dollars among all 17 submitted proposals from across Indiana. Twelve regions received between $5 and $30 million. The remaining five landed $50 million for their area – the highest dollar amount awarded.
West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis said while the regional group was hoping for $50 million in funding, the lower amount was “one of the best disappointments you could have ever had.”
“We’re going to have to sharpen our pencils and sort of revisit some of the things that we were looking at doing,” Dennis said. “But in all honesty, it’s still $30 million more than we had.”
The Greater Lafayette Region’s proposal includes projects ranging from a revamped Purdue University Airport to the expansion of rural broadband access – as well as a semiconductor facility, plans to increase child care capacity, and a “mixed-use and recreational development” (including a hotel, apartments, parking, and park space) in downtown Lafayette.
Dennis said the airport was a big priority for West Lafayette.
“For us, that would be an incredible asset to the community,” he said. “Both West Lafayette, Purdue University, and Lafayette. We have such a strong international representation here in Tippecanoe County. We have people that come here from all over the world – to work, to play, to learn.”
Multiple projects in the proposal are focused on the Tippecanoe County area. But Monticello Mayor Cathy Gross said the more rural counties were put on a more equitable footing with the Greater Lafayette area through the structure of the governing board, which included mayors, commissioners, and people with economic development roles from each county.
“We wanted to make sure that we all had a voice and that it was heard,” she said.
Gross said the Monticello-centric projects in the proposal, which include a downtown riverwalk and a co-working space, are her priority – but she believes that local investment has a regional impact.
“Everything builds on something else,” she said. “We have an amazing resource here with Indiana Beach. So let’s bring people to Indiana Beach, and then also downtown, and that creates another destination. And people can stay in Lafayette, come for a football, basketball game at Purdue, and then spend the entire weekend.”
“It truly is the rising tide that lifts all ships, right?” she added.
Gross said that directing funding towards a project like the Purdue airport was still up for discussion.
“I don’t want to commit with either a ‘Hey, that’s great,’ or a ‘Heck no’,” Gross said. “We haven’t sat down and had that discussion. I think we all want to make sure our more rural counties receive benefits from this process.”