The South Bend – Elkhart Regional Partnership of which Marshall County is a part of, received a 2023 Excellence in Economic Development Bronze Award from the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) for its READI Grant acquisition and distribution. The award was bestowed specifically for the organization’s work in the Regionalism & Cross-Border Collaboration category that impacted Population greater than 500,000 residents. Award winners were acknowledged and honored at the IEDC 2023 Annual Conference during the inaugural Recognition Night event in Dallas, Texas, on September 19.

“The South Bend – Elkhart Regional Partnership has raised the bar for excellence in economic development with its READI Grant project,” said Nathan Ohle, IEDC President and CEO. “This award is a testament to the Regional Partnership’s dedication to its residents and serves as a great example of how economic development can help transform a community for the better. It is IEDC’s honor and privilege to present the Regional Partnership with this award and recognize its leadership and innovation in the field of economic development!”

The Regional Partnership’s READI Grant project stemmed from the work of another IEDC – the Indiana Economic Development Corp. Launched by Gov. Holcomb and led by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC), Regional Economic Development Acceleration and Development Initiative – or READI – encourages regional collaboration and data-driven, long-term planning that will attract and retain talent in Indiana. The $500 million READI fund was passed by legislation during the 2021 session and was divided among 17 regions. Through READI, 17 regions across the state that represent all 92 counties are moving forward with projects and programs designed to enhance Indiana’s regions for current and future generations of Hoosiers. Collectively, the state’s $500 million investment is expected to yield an additional $9.86 billion public, private and nonprofit dollars invested (19.72:1 investment leverage ratio) in enhancing Indiana’s quality of life, quality of place and quality of opportunity. 

The Regional Partnership worked with county and local government officials, industry leaders, entrepreneurs, and residents of the South Bend – Elkhart region’s three Indiana counties (Elkhart, Marshall, and St. Joseph) to develop a regional proposal. The resulting plan, dubbed Smart Connected Communities 2030, identified goals and strategies for the region, as well as potential READI projects. The South Bend – Elkhart region was ultimately awarded $50 million in READI funds – the maximum amount awarded. 

Working alongside the Northern Indiana Regional Development Authority, the Regional Partnership then coordinated the distribution of READI funds. The projects were divided into two categories: $40 million dedicated to capital projects, with the remaining funds put aside for programs. The capital project request for proposal opened in June of 2022 with the Regional Partnership facilitating the process and the RDA making the allotment to 17 projects that September. The program awards were determined in December of 2022. The 11 winning programs fell into four major areas: Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Talent Attraction, and Talent Development.

“READI was an incredible opportunity for the South Bend – Elkhart region,” said Bethany Hartley, President and CEO of the South Bend – Elkhart Regional Partnership. “The $50 million in funds from the state was leveraged into an additional $448 million in public and private funding. This project was multifaceted, requiring coordination and communication on many levels. This was a community-wide effort, and we thank the International Economic Development Council for recognizing our work.” 

Every year IEDC looks specifically for economic development organizations, government entities, initiatives, and programs that have demonstrated consistent, exemplary performance in the economic development profession, leading the execution of projects that have a significant impact on revitalizing communities, and playing a major role in shaping and improving the practice of economic development.