2021 Opportunities for Northeast Indiana Community Planning

The start of a new year means that many communities are examining and prioritizing areas for improvement and expansion. While further information on COVID-19 related programs and funding is largely pending at this time, we would like to remind communities of the ongoing opportunities available and how we can assist.

Economic Development Administration

Grants are available for projects related to infrastructure or workforce development that lead to job creation.

  • Brownfields – Rehabilitation of a site where there are environmental concerns.
  • Shovel Ready – Assistance in obtaining a shovel ready designation on an industrial site.
  • EDA – Technical assistance with projects related to public works, economic adjustment,   and planning.
  • Tax Abatements – We can complete all required paperwork for a designating body.

Office of Community and Rural Affairs 

 Their current grant funding opportunities include projects related to wastewater, drinking water, and stormwater. Also, there are funding opportunities available for certain types of planning activities. We must be able to show a residential benefit to have a competitive grant application.

  • Wastewater/Drinking Water Program – Up to $700,000 available to improve a community’s wastewater or drinking water infrastructure.
  • Storm Water Improvement Program – Up to $600,000 to improve a storm water system.
  • Public Facilities Program – Up to $500,000 available for a project that benefits the community. Projects we have done under this program include community centers, fire stations, libraries, and council on aging facilities. (Temporarily suspended) 
  • Main Street Revitalization Program – Up to $600,000 available to improve a downtown area. Approved activities include streetscapes, façade improvements, and downtown infrastructure. Must be part of an Indiana Main Street organization to qualify. (Temporarily suspended)
  • Blight Clearance Program – Up to $500,000 available to rehabilitate deteriorated or abandoned downtown buildings, or vacant or unusable industrial sites. (Temporarily suspended)
  • Planning Grants – Funding that allows for a planning study to take place on any infrastructure projects. Comprehensive plans are also permitted.
  • COVID-19 Response Grants – Up to $250,000 available to address issues created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Transportation 

Region 3-A can assist with traffic counts, road reclassification, accident studies, and traffic impact studies. We can also provide technical assistance with grant applications for Community Crossings funding.

  • Community Crossing Application Preparation – Preparation and staff trained in PASER. Small communities have only a 25% match requirement.
  • FA3-FA4 Grant Application Preparation – Preparation for submittal by local employees in responsible in charge (ERC).
  • Road Reclassification Application – Traffic counts and submittal, prerequisite for some FA3-FA4 applications. 
  • Traffic Counts – Functional Class, Highway Performance Monitoring System (HPMS) railroad safety.
  • Accident Studies – Review accident data and review for possible roadway remediation. 
  • Traffic Impact Reports – Analyze and report on new business impact on existing roadways.
  • Member Road Safety Audit Review team for Northeast Indiana – Review accident locations and suggest possible remediation.

Region III-A serves an area including Huntington, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben, Wabash, and Whitley counties in Northeast Indiana. If you are interested in securing funding for opportunities in the above categories contact us today. We look forward to a productive 2021 for our area.

Third Round of COVID Response Grants: Eligibility, Deadlines and Assistance

The Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA) announced the third phase of COVID-19 Response Program and it is now open for applications.

OCRA has awarded 112 grants to 62 communities, totaling more than $20.9 million through the COVID-19 Response Program since April to aid communities impacted by the virus.

For this round, eligible applicants include: non-entitlement and entitlement local units of government and can apply for up to $250,000. 

Eligibility 

Eligible activities include: 

  • Mental health services 
  • Childcare services
  • Public WiFi locations
  • Food pantry or bank services
  • Subsidence payment programs
  • Grants or loans to businesses to retain low-to-moderate (LMI) jobs

Phase 3 is a competitive process. Communities that received an award in either previous phase may apply again.

Deadlines 

Proposals are being accepted until the end of the day Friday, Jan. 29, 2021. Note: applicants are encouraged to submit by 4 p.m. ET as there will be no technical support available after that time. Proposals will be collected by the electronic Grants Management System. Applications are due by Friday, Feb. 26th, 2021 with funding awards being announced on Thursday, April 1st, 2021. 

In March, Governor Eric Holcomb issued Executive Order 20-05 that allowed OCRA to redirect Community Development Block Grant funds to assist with COVID-19 needs, based on guidance from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Grant Application Assistance 

Region 3-A is here to help communities in the grant application process. The northeast Indiana area is among the areas impacted most by COVID-19. We encourage our communities to take advantage of these grant opportunities, as we can provide application assistance and guidance to improve the chances of receiving funding.

COVID-19 Response Program: More Information

More information can be found at https://www.in.gov/ocra/cdbg/covid-19-response-program/ or communities may contact the respective OCRA Community Liaison.

Wabash County Receives EDA Grant for Heartland Career Center Expansion

The Economic Development Administration has awarded a $4 million grant to Wabash County, Indiana, allowing them to expand the Heartland Career Center. The new facility will provide adult education/career training in healthcare and advanced manufacturing. 

Region 3A worked with Wabash County to help secure EDA grant funding for the facility. The funding will be matched with $1 million in local funds and is expected to help create or retain nearly 150 jobs.

Heartland Career Center 

This new facility will be a hub for job training in the Wabash County region, providing the skilled employees that local businesses demand. The project’s location is near an EDA designated “Opportunity Zone” and is expected to continue to drive private investment to the community.

Opportunities from the facility will include workforce training and certifications in areas such as advanced manufacturing, welding and CNC. Space will also be dedicated to simulator training technology. 

About Opportunity Zones 

Created by President Donald J. Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, Opportunity Zones are spurring economic development in economically-distressed communities nationwide. In June 2019, EDA added Opportunity Zones as an Investment Priority, which increases the number of catalytic Opportunity Zone-related projects that EDA can fund to fuel greater public investment in these areas.  

Steuben County Receives AIC 2020 Local Government Cooperation Award

We’re pleased to announce that a partnership between Steuben County, the Town of Ashley, and Region 3-A recently received the 2020 Local Government Cooperation Award by the Association of Indiana Counties (AIC). Our group was recognized for the infrastructure expansion project for economic development, working with the town of Ashley.

Project Background

Region 3-A partnered with Steuben County officials, officials from the town of Ashley. Together we worked to obtain federal and state grants for the development of Brightmark. Ashley was awarded a grant by the Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration to help expand water and sewer access for the new site in development by Brightmark.

Ashley was also awarded $1 million in Community Crossings money for a road, rail crossings and lighting for the Brightmark plant.

The new plant will recycle plastic waste back into fuel and industrial waxes. The innovative company will provide about 130 new jobs for the area. Brightmark is now in the testing phase. It has already produced fuel and is the first commercial scale operation of this type in the nation.

AIC Local Government Cooperation Award

AIC Award Criteria

Counties that win the award must demonstrate that a project meets these criteria:

  • Demonstrates cooperation between one or more municipalities and county(s)
  • Shows innovation
  • Positive impact on the community and the participating governmental units; and potential for the activity to serve as a model for other local governments

The Association of Indiana Counties’ Annual Conference was held virtually this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

See the award video here:

Community Crossings Call for Projects Update

The call for the second round of Community Crossings was paused in July in order to monitor the financial outlook due to COVID. However, on Wednesday, Indiana Governor Holcomb and INDOT Commissioner Joe McGuinness announced that the next call for projects in the Community Crossings grant program will open Friday, September 25, 2020. 

Information from INDOT 

Community Crossings is part of Gov. Holcomb’s Next Level Roads program, a 20-year, fully funded plan to enhance Indiana’s highways and local roads by awarding communities grants for shovel-ready local road construction projects.

Projects eligible for funding through Community Crossings:

  • Road resurfacing
  • Bridge rehabilitation
  • Road reconstruction 
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance in connection with road projects 
  • Material costs for chip sealing and crack filling operations 

Projects submitted to the Indiana Department of Transportation for funding will be evaluated based on need, traffic volume, local support, the impact on connectivity and mobility within the community, and regional economic significance.

Details

Community Crossings is open to all local government units in the State of Indiana.

  • Cities and towns with a population of fewer than 10,000 will receive funds using a 75/25 match.
  • Cities and towns with a population of greater than 10,000 will receive funds using a 50/50 match.
  • Counties with a population of fewer than 50,000 will receive funds using a 75/25 match.
  • Counties with a population of greater than 50,000 will receive funds using a 50/50 match.

Over the last four years, the state has awarded more than $730 million in matching funds to support local road and bridge projects around Indiana. 

All application materials must be submitted by Friday, October 23, 2020, at 5 p.m. ET. Communities receiving funding for projects will be notified by INDOT later this fall. 

If you need technical assistance in applying for Community Crossings funding, please contact us at (260)347-4714.

For more information on the assistance we provide with Community Crossings application preparation, visit our service page

Indiana’s Coronavirus Relief Fund Program

The State of Indiana received funds from the federal government as part of the CARES Act to address COVID-19-related matters. The state has allocated $300 Million to local municipalities. We have received a few questions on how the funds can be used. 

Our friends at the Association of Indiana Counties (AIC) have a page on their website that provides resources to local municipalities on how the CARES Act funds can be used. Click here to go to AIC’s COVID-19 page. 

We also want you to know that Region 3-A is here to help you through this very trying time. If we can help answer questions on CARES Act funding please contact us.

About the AIC 

The Association of Indiana Counties (AIC) was established in 1957 for the betterment of county government. AIC’s purposes and goals are to seek the betterment of county government through: representation of counties at the Indiana General Assembly; research and dissemination of information; communications through publications and seminars; professional training and educational programs; liaison between counties, state and federal agencies; and technical and managerial assistance.

While there are a number of agencies and groups offering assistance to county government, AIC is the only entity that represents the legislative needs of Indiana counties.

Funding Options for Indiana Drinking Water Projects

Communities often want to upgrade their drinking water capacity but are limited by available finances. There are loan and grant options available, which allow for projects to be completed in a timely manner. 

The funding agencies are aware of the challenges that small towns face. When grants are involved the agency focuses on the financial impact a project will have for a community. When a town chooses a loan option, agencies provide repayment terms that allow for a community to pay back the loan so that residents aren’t drastically impacted with their monthly utility bills. 

The items below represent grant and loan options where Region 3-A can provide technical assistance to a community in getting a drinking water project funded.

OCRA 

Wastewater/Drinking Water Program 

The Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs offers funding for drinking water projects under their wastewater/drinking water program. The funds for this program come from the federal level under Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The funds come to the state as a community development block grant. The state through OCRA disburses the funds to projects that meet eligibility requirements. Communities must submit a grant application to OCRA for consideration. The grant applications are competitive. They typically have two rounds of funding per year. Below is OCRA’s matrix for determining the maximum grant amount available for a project. The local match requirement is at least 20% of the project cost.

Urgent Need 

OCRA can fund projects under the urgent need designation. 

There are two criteria that need to be met for OCRA to consider a project under this designation. 

  1. The project must address an emergency situation
  2. The community must demonstrate that no other means of paying for the project exist and that OCRA funds are the only option. 

Based on information presented at OCRA continuing education events they have stated this designation has only been used once in the last 40 years.

State Revolving Fund

 The State Revolving Fund (SRF) Loan Programs provide low-interest loans to Indiana communities for projects that improve wastewater and drinking water infrastructure. The Program’s mission is to provide eligible entities with the lowest interest rates possible on the financing of such projects while protecting public health and the environment. 

SRF also funds non-point source projects that are tied to a wastewater loan. Currently, SRF’s rates are in the low two-percent range.

USDA

Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program

  • Loan term as long as 40 years
  • Low interest rates
  • Typically, a loan program, but some of the funds can be used as grant dollars to keep user costs reasonable

Emergency Community Water Assistance Grants

  • Up to $500,000 available to construct water source, intake or treatment facility
  • Up to $150,000 available to construct waterline extensions, or repair breaks or leaks
  • No funds available currently

National Rural Water Association Rural Water Loan Fund

Eligible projects include planning costs, replacing equipment, system upgrades, and disaster recovery.

  • Loan amount up $100,000 or 75% of the total project cost
  • Interest rate of 3% and a 10-year term
  • Emergency loans are 90-day no interest, and immediate turn around on applications

EPA – Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act

Eligible projects include drinking water treatment and distribution, alternative water supply, water recycling projects, and enhanced energy efficiency at drinking water facilities.

  • A single fixed interest rate is established at closing
  • Interest rate is not impacted by the borrower’s credit or loan structure
  • Customized repayment schedules
  • Long repayment period
  • Deferred payment – Up to five years
  • Subordination
  • Loans can be combined with various funding sources
  • More Information

If you’re looking for more information on available water funding, contact us at region3a@region3a.org to learn about the best options for your community.

COVID-19 Regional Planning and Recovery

As a regional unit of government serving Northeast Indiana, our sole imperative has always been to support the advancement of Northeast Indiana. We have assisted with many community, economic development, transportation and housing projects throughout the region. Now in the midst of the COVID-19 public health crisis, we are working on ways to help our community heal, help area businesses, and assist with economic growth to keep our region moving forward. 

Point of Contact

Region 3A has also served as a regional liaison to many state and federal agencies, providing an efficient single point of contact for 6 counties and 32 municipalities. As an agency governed by local county and municipal officials, Region 3A is here to support development and rehabilitation needs. 

Reliable Information 

Our promise to the counties that we serve is that we will always be informed with accurate and up-to-date information on emerging federal, state, local and private sector business support initiatives and programs, and available as a source for information. Now more than ever, we encourage businesses and organizations to reach out to explore options for grants and assistance under our services offerings. 

Relief and Moving Forward 

Region 3A is developing a plan with local and regional organizations to provide information and help our community receive short-term relief and assistance. We are here to help residents navigate the quick changes of available resources, provide necessary details, and meet deadlines for upcoming relief funding. 

If you would like more information on relief funding for businesses as it becomes available, please reach out to us at region3a@region3a.org.

EDA Accepting Applications for CARES Act Grant Funding

The Economic Development Administration has begun taking applications for their funding opportunity (NOFO) CARES Act. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), signed into law by President Trump on March 27 to provide the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA) with $1.5 billion for economic development assistance programs to help communities “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.” 

CARES Act Funding

This program will fund eligible economic development projects 80% and up to 100% under certain conditions. Eligible applicants include local governmental entities, institutions of higher educa­tion, not for-profit entities, and federally recognized Tribes. 

EDA Requirements

The EDA’s requirements are that projects must have a commercial/industrial benefit, and that multiple current or incoming businesses benefit from the project. 

Here are the types of projects that the EDA has funded in recent years:

  • Infrastructure – Water and sewer
  • Industrial parks – New or expansion of existing
  • Workforce training facilities
  • Business incubators
  • Brownfield redevelopment
  • Technology-based facilities
  • Multi-tenant manufacturing facilities
  • Science and research parks
  • Telecommunications infrastructure and development facilities
  • Revolving loan funds     
  • Economic diversification
  • Travel and tourism marketing campaigns

The above projects are examples of projects that will be funded, but it is not limited to these types of projects. Projects that specifically address COVID-19 issues, or a project that would allow for resiliency from this pandemic, would have a great opportunity to receive funding.

Applications for the CARES Act

The EDA will award grants to successful applications on a rolling basis. EDA began accepting applications on May 7, 2020 and will deploy its CARES Act funding as quickly, effectively, and efficiently as possible, and in a manner that meets the needs of these communities. 

Funding for eligible projects available on a “first come, first served” basis, so communities and organizations seeking funding should act fast. 


Contact us at region3a@region3a.org for more information on how to get your application started. For information and frequently asked questions regarding the CARES Act, visit the FAQs page of the EDA website.

Town of Ashley Indiana Awarded EDA Grant Funding

The Region 3-A team worked with the town of Ashley Indiana for more than a year to help them achieve EDA grant funding for infrastructure at the site of the new Brightmark Energy plant. We’re pleased to announce that earlier this week, Ashley Indiana was notified that they will receive a $1.2 million grant from the Economic Development Administration.

The EDA grant will help complete infrastructure projects to service the Brightmark Energy project that is under construction. Brightmark is going to use a patented process to convert waste plastics into fuel and industrial wax at their new 114,000 sq. ft. facility.

As a result, the 136 jobs are expected to be created within the new facility, along with opportunities for construction and infrastructure work as well throughout the project.

About The Project 

The Town of Ashley approached Region 3-A for assistance in EDA funding after Brightmark became the controlling owner of RES Polyflow. Our role was to help the community leverage their resources and ensure that all of the information and criteria is provided so that they could get the most funding available.

Steuben County provided a loan guarantee to Ashley of up to $1.5 million for the project, much of which will go toward matching funds. The town has set aside $1 million in tax increment financing money. Some of that financing money will pay for right of way acquisition and engineering fees.

About EDA Grant Funding

The EDA grant provides a 50/50 match of grant funding for infrastructure projects. However, it can more or less depend on economic factors. Private investment and community investment go a long way in making potential infrastructure projects come to fruition. If you’re interested in learning more about EDA Grant funding and how to best use the resources available to your town, contact us at region3a@region3a.org