Morton Marcus: READI or not, it’s here

Morton Marcus

With 1,451 Hoosier COVID deaths in the past 90 days, with the General Assembly making redistricting a private party, the deadline for READI proposals goes unnoticed.

You remember READI (the Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative)? Dreamed up by the Governor and the Legislature, READI was handed to the IEDC (the Indiana Economic Development Corporation) to administer “a bold, transformational initiative that will dedicate $500 million in state appropriations to promote strategic investments that will make Indiana a magnet for talent and economic growth.”

The resulting sub-state regions were certainly a bold, if not an immaculate conception. Of the twenty or so regions posted on an IEDC map, some were familiar county alignments and others were…odd.

Batesville (spanning the border of Franklin and Ripley counties) is a region.

Pike and Gibson counties appear to have been orphans to be shared somehow by three adjacent regions.

The Indianapolis metro area is split into four regional groups with Hancock County apparently going it alone.

These “regions” were rushed into being similar to the scene in “The Court Jester” where Danny Kaye was knighted. If you don’t know this 1955 movie, check it out.

Now, September 30th, the time has arrived to reveal these “data-driven, actionable and sustainable development plans that outline strategies focused on improving the quality of place, quality of life and quality of opportunity within their communities.”

We eagerly await these “bold, transformative” documents. The IEDC said they would be made public, but when? Will we get to see all of the submissions or only the winning few?

How will the 15 county Northeast Region’s plan of 2021 differ from the 12 county 2005 Region 3 plan? Will the addition of Kosciusko, Lagrange, and Wabash counties magnetize this region?

The IEDC’s initial statement suggested the state might award up to $50,000 to a region to purchase the services of a consulting firm to draw up the required strategic plan.

Did Region 3 get such an award? The Greater Ft. Wayne Business Weekly reported the chair of the planning committee said such a study could cost $100,000 and he would put up the funds for any shortage the committee experienced.

Going forward, the IEDC will announce awards totaling up to the aforementioned half billion dollars sometime by the end of this year. The legislative and administrative sponsors of this largesse forecast these READI funds are “expected to attract at least $2 billion of local public, private and philanthropic match funding.”

And if they don’t? And who has been, or will be, sitting on the committees that spend all this money? Is anyone watching?

Morton Marcus is an economist. Reach him at [email protected]. Follow his views and those of John Guy on Who gets what? wherever podcasts are available or at Send comments to [email protected].