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Southern Indiana RDA submits regional plan

Wendy Dant Chesser is the president and CEO of One Southern Indiana. (Inside INdiana Business Photo)

NEW ALBANY, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Officials in southern Indiana say work on a long-awaited regional plan is complete.

The board of directors for the Our Southern Indiana Regional Development Authority has submitted its final report to the Indiana Economic Development Corp. after more than nine months of engagement with residents and stakeholders in the five-county region.

The plan is the result of a $150,000 planning grant awarded by the IEDC last year.

The RDA is administered by One Southern Indiana (1si), which is the chamber of commerce and economic development agency for Clark and Floyd counties. In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, 1si President and Chief Executive Officer Wendy Dant Chesser said the engagement process aimed to build consensus for the region.

“We were excited to learn that there were a lot of things going on that we could play a supportive role in; we don’t have to take the lead in it. There are many other projects where we have a partner role that we could play as the regional development authority,” said Chesser. “But there were three or four areas in which the Our Southern Indiana RDA can take a lead and that is things such as regional broadband solutions. We also know that regional marketing and branding is something that no one’s taken responsibility for, so a regional development authority can look at those type of projects to really partner with many of the different organizations that are working in the five counties to build a better brand for our community and for our region.”

The RDA says final submission plan identified seven specific priorities for the region, such as:

  • Connections: Enhance connections throughout the local communities, counties, and broader region by improving safety, function, and efficiencies for all modes of transportation including vehicular, bicycle, pedestrian, rail, intermodal, freight, and aviation networks.
  • Destinations: Create and nurture great destinations for present and future residents and visitors.
  • Economic Development: Pursue catalytic development that spurs investment in the region’s jobs, housing, public spaces, and infrastructure.
  • Government: Encourage collaboration among organizations, agencies, and local government.
  • Infrastructure: Ensure that the region’s utility infrastructure systems respect and protect the area’s natural resources while providing high-quality, efficient, and effective services to current and future residents and businesses.
  • Natural Assets: Promote the preservation and celebration of the region’s unique natural features and environmentally-sensitive areas.
  • Workforce: Align education and workforce development opportunities to strengthen job growth and ensure that the region’s workforce adequately fulfills the employment opportunities available within the region.

The plan still requires approval by the IEDC. Chesser says the group has been in communication with the IEDC during the planning process to make sure they were in line with what was expected, but also to make sure they were making the plan their own.

“We wanted to make the plan our own so the counties of Clark, Floyd, Jefferson, Scott and Washington can now look at what it is that we need and how we can work with IEDC to start building relationships to build towards further projects.”

Chesser says the RDA is now in the process of developing its next steps upon approval from the IEDC.

Chesser said the engagement process aimed to build a consensus around what the region needs to compete for talent and economic development opportunities.