- Associated Press - Monday, May 25, 2015

JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (AP) - Southern Indiana leaders are looking at potential projects they could tackle with a share of $84 million in state funding that’s being earmarked for regional initiatives aimed at attracting new residents to the state.

At least six other Indiana regions are interested in the program, but only two areas will receive shares of the funding that the Legislature included in the state’s two-year budget at Pence’s request.

“This is a new initiative, so we’ve got to demonstrate that it works” before asking lawmakers for more funding to expand the program to other regions, Eric Shields, vice president of policy and strategic initiatives for the Indiana Economic Development Corp., told WDRB-TV (https://bit.ly/1Ki8wQz).

The hope is that the two Indiana regions selected for funding will become known over the next eight years as places where young professionals or retirees choose to live, Shields said.

A regional steering committee has dozens of proposals to consider, said Wendy Dant Chesser, CEO of the regional development group One Southern Indiana. Priorities include finishing the Ohio River Greenway, a seven-mile pedestrian and bike path along the riverfront and redeveloping the area around Clarksville’s shuttered Colgate-Palmolive Co. manufacturing plant. The steering committee must decide on proposals by July 1.

“We’re not sure exactly how all this going to play out, but our request to everybody has been to think big, think bold,” Chesser said.

Recently released census figures show Clark County, where Jeffersonville and Clarksville area located, grew in population by 3.5 percent from 2010 to 2014, but that lagged behind nearby Kentucky counties also part of the Louisville metropolitan area.

“We have to figure out how to attract talent into our area. . Young folks will often decide where they want to live, and then go get a job,” Chesser said.

Clarksville is taking a fresh look at how to revitalize the old industrial area along its riverfront with commanding views of the Louisville skyline. The area includes the 55-acre former Colgate-Palmolive plant and a tank farm that is mostly not in use, said Nick Lawrence, Clarksville’s redevelopment director.

Dr. Jay Sheth, the managing member of Clarks Landing Enterprises LLC, which owns the Colgate plant, said it plans to build 96 apartments in the next year or two. The apartments will be in one of about eight buildings on the site. Sheth said offices and retail are possibilities for the site.

Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore said he’s talked with a few developers interested in building residential condos around at the base of the Big Four pedestrian bridge over the river, and the state money could help with improvements like a public parking garage to serve residents.

Shields, with the IEDC, said how the state divides the $84 million among the two areas selected will depend on their plans, Shields said. State funds must be matched dollar-for-dollar at the local level.

Shields said the state will look for projects with the highest return on investment, and regions will have to “make a compelling case that they can actually execute these projects.”

“We have all seen communities put plans together that end up sitting … collecting dust on a shelf, and we don’t want that to happen here,” he said.


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