OCRA Announces Indiana Connectivity Program

Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA) recently announced a new program aiming to help more Hoosiers get access to reliable and quality broadband. The Indiana Connectivity Program will assist qualifying residents and businesses that lack access to broadband internet service with service providers and assist in the expense of extending broadband to those locations. This is an excellent opportunity for underserved residents and businesses in our region to get reliable broadband access.

INDOT study

Program Details

The program applies to residential and business locations that are unserved or underserved. Underserved locations are defined as having access to actual speeds less than 25Mbps download and 3Mbps upload. Applications for consideration can be submitted by entering information into the Next Level Connections portal to indicate interest in receiving broadband internet service. 

Internet Service Providers will have the opportunity to review these locations and submit bids to the state on the cost of providing service to these locations. OCRA will evaluate these bids and make awards to the providers whose bid presents the lowest cost to the state for extension of the service. 

Inputting location information into the Next Level Connections portal does not guarantee extension of service. 

business women looking at computer screen

Funding Information

Next Level Connections Broadband Programs have been allocated $270 million in total. The Indiana Connectivity Program is included as part of this larger program. Limits per line extension are set by Indiana Code including a per line extension amount that cannot exceed $25,000 and a per passing amount that cannot exceed $4,800. 

Timeline 

The Indiana Connectivity Program and Next Level Connections online portal will open on Monday Sept. 27, 2021. The bidding and challenge processes must take place before awards can be made. Once made, projects must be completed within 9 months of the contract date. 

Assistance 

Region 3A is proud to be a resource for our area residents and businesses who require reliable internet access. If you need assistance with application or have questions about this program please contact us at region3a@region3a.org

Additional Program Information 

For more information or questions on the Indiana Connectivity Program, please visit in.gov/ocra/broadband/ or call 833-639-8522. 

WWW.IN.GOV/OCRA/BROADBAND

EDA Announces “Investing in America’s Communities” $3 Billion in Funding Immediately

Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo recently announced the “Investing in America’s Communities” programs, in which the Economic Development Administration (EDA) will execute to invest the $3 billion it received from The American Rescue Plan. 

The programs include six individual areas to apply for funding. We anticipate that applications for funding will be highly competitive and want to encourage our NE Indiana communities to seek assistance in preparations. Region 3A specializes in helping communities achieve funding for following two program areas.

adult architect blueprint business

Economic Adjustment Assistance Program

EDA’s American Rescue Plan Economic Adjustment Assistance Program makes $500 million in Economic Adjustment Assistance grants available to communities.

The EDA cites this program as their “most flexible” most flexible, as grants made under this program will help hundreds of communities across the nation. Funds can be used to plan, build, innovate, and put people back to work through construction or non-construction projects designed to meet local needs.

A wide range of technical, planning, workforce development, entrepreneurship, and public works and infrastructure projects are eligible for funding under this program.

Eligible applicants for EDA’s Economic Adjustment Assistance program include a(n):

  • District Organization of an EDA-designated Economic Development District
  • Indian Tribe or a consortium of Indian Tribes
  • State, county, city, or other political subdivision of a State, including a special purpose unit of a State or local government engaged in economic or infrastructure development activities, or a consortium of political subdivisions
  • Institution of higher education or a consortium of institutions of higher education
  • Public or private non-profit organization or association acting in cooperation with officials of a political subdivision of a State

Travel, Tourism & Outdoor Recreation Program

Through the Travel, Tourism & Outdoor Recreation program, EDA is focused on accelerating the recovery of communities that rely on the travel, tourism and outdoor recreation sectors. $750 million of EDA’s American Rescue Plan funds are allocated to support the following efforts:

Competitive Grants include $240 million in funding dedicated to helping communities that have been hardest hit by challenges facing the travel, tourism and outdoor recreation sectors. These funds can be used to invest in infrastructure, workforce or other projects to support the recovery of the industry and economic resilience of the community in the future.

Competitive Tourism Grants 

Eligible applicants for EDA’s Competitive Tourism Grants program include a(n):

  • District Organization of an EDA-designated Economic Development District
  • Indian Tribe or a consortium of Indian Tribes
  • State, county, city, or other political subdivision of a State, including a special purpose unit of a State or local government engaged in economic or infrastructure development activities, or a consortium of political subdivisions
  • Institution of higher education or a consortium of institutions of higher education
  • Public or private non-profit organization or association acting in cooperation with officials of a political subdivision of a State
  • Individuals or for-profit entities are not eligible.

The funding from these programs have the potential to help our community on a large scale. Region 3A is prepared to assist organizations in our area and help to make their grant funding applications highly competitive. For more information on application assistance, contact us today. 


For more information on available funding, visit the American Rescue Plan Programs page on the EDA website. EDA webinars will be held to provide an overview of the American Rescue Plan funding on July 27 and July 29.

Town of Avilla Receives Grant to Complete Industrial Park Expansion

The U.S. Department of Commerce has invested $1.3 Million to support the growth of transportation, distribution, and logistics businesses in Avilla, Indiana. The funds will be used for road, water and sewer infrastructure to complete the expansion of the town’s industrial park.

Grant Funding Impact

The industrial park expansion is expected to create 70 jobs, retain more than 360 jobs and generate $7.8 million in private investment. The EDA project is going to be matched with $1.3 million in local funds which have already been committed to the expansion. The awarded funds will be used for streets, sewer lines and water main installation in the park.

“The Economic Development Administration is pleased to support Avilla as they work to expand regional economic growth and create new jobs,” said Dennis Alvord, Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development. “This project will provide critical infrastructure for the much-needed expansion of the town’s industrial park to accommodate additional businesses and maintain its competitiveness as a regional hub for transportation, distribution and logistics.” (source: EDA Commerce News)

Drone view of the parking lot by the roundabout

Economic Growth

40 acres have already been allotted in the 80-acre park. Avilla Town Council President Paul Shepherd noted that McLaughlin Furnace Group is currently in operation in the park, and that two other sites have been claimed.

Region 3A had the pleasure of working with the Town of Avilla to secure funding for the industrial park. The expansion will help the town continue to grow, create jobs and attract new businesses to the area. If you’d like to learn more about how Region 3A can help your area leverage their resources and move forward with growth projects, contact us.

About the U.S. Economic Development Administration

The mission of the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) is to lead the federal economic development agenda by promoting competitiveness and preparing the nation’s regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy. An agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, EDA invests in communities and supports regional collaboration in order to create jobs for U.S. workers, promote American innovation, and accelerate long-term sustainable economic growth.

American Rescue Plan: NE Indiana Community Impact Meeting

On March 11th, the American Rescue Plan Act, a $1.9 trillion package designed to mitigate the economic effects of COVID-19 was signed. Part of this package is a $350 billion in direct aid to state and local governments. In Indiana, the state will receive $3.2B, and local governments will receive a total of 2.6B. 

Unlike the prior CARES Act dollars, which was made available to local governments at the State’s discretion, the ARP aid will be a mandatory distribution. 

Community Development

The American Rescue Plan Act: Northeast Indiana 

So what does this mean for our area? Local governments will be receiving funding that is expected to be distributed around mid-May. Qualifications for use of the funding are fairly broad in order to assist their local citizens and businesses that were impacted by COVID-19. Local governments are receiving funding which will allow the money to be used in ways which will directly impact the community.

American Rescue Plan Community Impact Meeting

Region 3A will be hosting a virtual call Friday April 23rd at 10AM for project ideas, questions and regional community discussion. The call will include a representative from Baker Tilly who will be able to discuss which community projects are eligible for ARP Act funding. Community participation is encouraged as we move toward relief in our area. Here, we can get an understanding of what issues are specific to our community and prioritize funding and projects. 

General Meeting Items
  • How will ARP funds be distributed?
  • When will ARP funds be distributed?
  • How may ARP funds be used?
  • What time period does the ARP cover?
  • Community Q&A

Region 3A is committed to assisting the Northeast Indiana community in COVID-19 recovery projects and programs. If you are not on our mailing list and would like to attend this meeting, contact us at region3a@region3a.org for virtual meeting details. 

INDOT Planning and Environmental Linkages Study

The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) recently announced that they will begin a study to improve the U.S. 30 corridor from Valparaiso to the Ohio state line. The U.S. 30 Coalition received support for the study from Governor Eric Holcomb, INDOT Commissioner Joe McGuinness, and the Northern Indiana legislative delegation. 

The Coalition cited a freeway as the best possible solution to improve U.S. 30 due to the safety and economic disadvantages associated with the current structure.

The Planning and Environment Linkages Study 

The study will allow INDOT to examine various options to improve the safety, traffic flow, freight movement and economic development potential of the corridor, including the construction of a freeway. INDOT cited that the study will recognize the importance of U.S. 30 remaining a consistent type of roadway and not a series of individual improvements. They also noted that it will not simply examine the quickest or least expensive solution.

The Planning and Environmental Linkage study will examine the route and consider community, economic and environmental goals they evaluate safety and mobility solutions on U.S. 30.

Community Impact and Development 

The Coalition credits the northern Indiana business community, who made it clear to Holcomb and his staff that business retention and expansion is at risk without improving U.S. 30 to a freeway. The Coalition will work with INDOT through the study process, making sure that communities’ interests are well represented.

The U.S. 30 Coalition is an advocacy group is leading the effort in upgrading the current roadway to a freeway to be sure that U.S. 30 works for community members, while providing safe travel for drivers.

Region 3-A fully supports the study to determine if the project is warranted based on the impact it could potentially have on improving safety and growing the regional economy.

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