Daviess County now has an improvement plan, and community leaders are anxious to get started with its implementation. A 76-page Quality of Place and Workforce Attraction Plan has been accepted by Regional Opportunities Initiative. The Ready Communities Plan capped off 60 days of intensive research around the community looking at everything from housing and job opportunities to recreation and entertainment.
“It was a great process and one that gave us confidence. We now have renewed focus, vision, and capacity to build on a strong foundation to advance Daviess County,” said Bryant Niehoff, executive director of the Daviess County Economic Development Corporation. “We have already received some very positive feedback from the ROI officials regarding the Daviess County planning process, and now we are beginning to hone in on high priority projects that could be great candidates for ROI’s implementation program.”
The Ready Communities Plan involved several area organizations like the Daviess County Community Foundation, Purdue Extension Community Development, the Daviess County Chamber of Commerce, EDC and others.
Now that the study is done and the plan is in place, the county has moved into the second phase. That is the opportunity to seek grants to implement some of the recommendations found in the plan. “This is a very big deal,” said Niehoff. “This is a huge opportunity for our community to make proposals and make improvements.”
Several organizations are already looking at the plan and assessing the information in an effort to start the process of making changes. One of the suggestions in the plan was to develop more trails to try and attract new workers to the area.
On Tuesday the Daviess County Council heard a proposal for the development of a trail from Loogootee to Montgomery and eventually to Washington. Part of the pitch was that it would help attract people to the area and enhance a workforce that has very few people to fill a growing number of jobs.
“It’s a great situation to be in when Daviess County is outpacing the number of workers that are needed,” said Daviess County Council President Mike Sprinkle. “The enhancements being made around the county will definitely be a draw for those looking to come here and work jobs in the county and hopefully we can stay on top and improve things and draw more good people here.”
The potential projects identified in the report range from large to small. Already some organizations are working on potential grants. The Daviess County Chamber of Commerce is already active in trying to move some of the ideas forward.
“The things happening on Main Street with Hometown Collaboration Initiative go hand-in-hand with this plan,” said Samantha Bobbitt, executive director for the Daviess County Chamber of Commerce. “Many of the same people have worked on both initiatives. One of the first items we have begun talking about is the housing shortage. The Chamber and the EDC will soon create a housing focus group. We will invite those people in our community that can help us to identify and reduce barriers to building every type of structure a person may live in. Indiana Uplands/ROI has also been working on a housing study and has reiterated the lack of housing. Population growth is the primary reason to solve this problem as soon as possible or at least get a handle on what it would take to help the situation. Information from the preliminary report suggests we are projected to need 100 housing units in the next five years. The county currently has a split of 77 percent owner-occupied and 23 percent renter occupied. The model assumes a 60/40 split to meet rental demands. We hope to develop partnerships with stakeholders to support development of new lots with a targeted campaign on the benefits of supporting community development.”
Niehoff points out there are also some other projects that the community can get after right away. “We are looking at some of the low hanging fruit, projects that have been worked on and are about ready to go,” he said. “There is a lot of energy for a centralized gathering place downtown,” he said. “When we talk about the bigger projects we need to get the right people in the room and do some significant planning ahead of time. ROI wants to see projects that are ready to go.”
Other potential projects include development opportunities at the I-69 exits for Washington, Odon and Elnora. A new focus on a county brand to more effectively market and position the county, gateway and streetscape improvements, more active living and activities associated with young adults and families, and addressing broadband internet availability is also in the works.
Additional identified areas of need were expanded child care availability and diversity in housing options and the means to effectively address the ongoing substance abuse issues in the county.
The ROI, which was established by an Eli Lilly Endowment Grant, has $1.5 million available for grants to government agencies and area 501©(3) nonprofits in an 11 county area. The grants will fund anywhere from $100,000 to $250,000 projects.
“ROI is here to make a large impact on the region,” said Niehoff. “The grants require a 10 percent match but can include in-kind services.”
Organizations wanting to submit a proposal must have a formal letter of intent submitted to ROI by Sept. 9 to begin the process. Formal notice for full applications will be given in October.
People with questions are encouraged to contact the Daviess County Economic Development Corporation office.
Downloadable PDF copies of the report, together with more than 20 separate reports, plans and documents researched for the ROI report are available both on the Daviess County Economic Development Corporation’s website, at www.dcedc.net/davies-co-roi-quality-of-attraction-plan/ or on the ROI website at swcindiandotorg.files.wordpress.com/2019/08/8-6-19.