City 1 of 6 up for grant

GREENFIELD — The city of Greenfield is chasing an opportunity to grow and strengthen the business community through a state initiative that partners the city with economic development experts.

The city recently announced that it’s one of six semifinalists being considered for the Hometown Collaboration Initiative, a program that works with communities to achieve development goals and enhance their hometowns. The program is presented jointly by the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, Ball State University’s Center for Community Economic Development, Purdue University’s Center for Regional Development and Purdue Extension.

If chosen, the program is a yearlong process. At the end of that process, the community will invest at least $10,000 — half of which comes from OCRA — into a community project of its choice. The project should have lasting impact on the city, according to the application for the program.

Communities with 25,000 or fewer residents were eligible to apply. Last year, five finalists were chosen.

On Tuesday, program organizers were in Greenfield to meet with city officials and community stakeholders to hear more about why Greenfield should be selected as a program finalist.

If chosen as a finalist, the community will select one of three building blocks to focus on: leadership, economy or place making.

Greenfield leaders have decided the focus of their program should be building a supportive community environment for small businesses and entrepreneurs to encourage business retention, city planner Joanie Fitzwater said.

The city already has initiatives in place to move forward with the other tenets of the program, she added. Leadership Hancock County focuses on promoting and fostering leadership in the county, and the Greenfield Coalition is working to enhance community design and public spaces through downtown revitalization efforts.

The Hometown Collaboration Initiative brings together about 30 residents, city leaders and members of the business community who will gather community feedback and input to identify strategies that will grow their communities.

The city’s goals include:

•Enhancing the growth of entrepreneurs

•Stabilizing and growing local businesses or industries

•Improving the business climate of the community

•Helping make local businesses more competitive

•Expanding the number of jobs creating by local businesses

Fitzwater said she’s excited about the opportunity the city could be afforded; the group that will be formed through the Hometown Collaboration Initiative will be different from other groups already focused on improving Greenfield, she said.

“We’re going to learn how to work together better and how to strengthen our community partnerships,” she said. “It’s also learning to create results.”

The city has identified a number of catalysts projects in its updated comprehensive plan — a blueprint for the city’s future growth — that could be launched to enhance economic development in Greenfield. One of those projects the city might consider in the future is an incubator program in which the community would set up office space for startup businesses to use in hopes of sparking more economic development.

That and other projects could be considered for the city’s capstone project using the $10,000, Fitzwater said.

“Who knows what it’s going to end up being,” Fitzwater said. “But it dovetails with how this community is getting focused on what we’re trying to accomplish.”

Mayor Chuck Fewell said he’s excited about the collaboration among organizations and programs the initiative could create, and he’s proud Greenfield was chosen as a semifinalist.

“It’s right in line with our plans that we already have for the city,” Fewell said. “I think we have a good shot at being finalists.”

Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann, whose office oversees the OCRA, said in a news release announcing the semifinalists that the program helps communities come together to develop strong local visions for their futures.

“I am confident that participating in (the Hometown Collaboration Initiative) will help attract and retain both businesses and residents and strengthen the fabric of the local community,” she said.

Finalists are expected to be announced early next month.

At a glance

The Hometown Collaboration Initiative is a program designed to develop a new generation of leaders, promote the launch and growth of small businesses and entrepreneurs or enhance the natural and physical assets of their hometowns.

The program is administered by the Office of Community and Rural Affairs in partnership with Ball State University’s Center for Community Economic Development, Purdue University’s Center for Regional Development and Purdue Extension.

If selected, Greenfield will work with trained coaches and experts to build a stronger business community. Finalists will be announced early next month.

Samm Quinn is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3275 or