Bartels: Collaborative effort to spur regional growth

Thriving businesses and hardworking Hoosiers make Indiana the economic envy of the Midwest. In 2020, Indiana attracted a record number of new job commitments – almost 28,000 more than the previous year – proving business is booming. To continue drawing job providers to our communities and spur growth in southern Indiana, we are taking a regional approach and collaborating to manifest a strong vision of the future.

Recently, the southwest Indiana region of Knox, Pike, Spencer, Perry and Harrison counties, and the Indiana Uplands region of Brown, Crawford, Daviess, Dubois, Greene, Lawrence, Martin, Monroe, Orange, Owen and Washington counties, teamed up and applied for a new grant. Through the Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative, or READI, these counties would secure grant funding to make sure our area draws top talent and new jobs.

READI grants are predicted to create a statewide return on investment of at least $2 billion in match funding.

Counties are also working together as part of the 21st Century Talent Initiative, tasked with connecting communities to attract and develop Hoosier talent. Dubois, Orange, Crawford, Perry, Spencer and Pike counties joined forces to form the Southern Indiana Gateway, now the state’s thirteenth 21st Century Talent Region.

Goals for the Southern Indiana Gateway include increasing regional population by 15% by 2026, increasing the number of high school graduates with college degrees or training certificates by 20% by 2026, and increasing the number of internship or apprenticeship opportunities by 10% each year.

As the owner of two businesses and past economic development director for Dubois County, I believe the best path for continued jobs growth is through regional collaboration. That is why I supported legislation to create the READI grant program.

Southern Indiana counties are coming together to enhance our quality of life, attract job providers and draw new talent to the region. This collaboration will spur opportunities for us all. To learn more about READI grants, visit iedc.in.gov. More information about the 21st Century Talent Initiative can be found at in.gov/cct/21st-century-talent-regions.

State Rep. Stephen Bartels (R-Eckerty) represents House District 74, which includes portions of Spencer, Dubois, Perry, Crawford and Orange counties.