We partnered with the City of Plymouth on two READI applications earlier this summer. (Here) One was the development of an Entrepreneur Center (Ward Commerce Center) and the other was for downtown housing on Water Street (Water Street Townhomes). We attended the South Bend Elkhart Regional Partnership (SBERP) meeting where decisions on projects were made yesterday.
We live tweeted some of that on the Easterday Construction Twitter Feed while we were there. (See Right)
The discussion started with the funding available. The initial award was $50MM. In the standard “leaky bucket theory” of public funding, that number took an immediate haircut: 3% ($1.5MM) will be retained by IEDC for administration & accounting and 3% ($1.5MM) will be retained by SBERP for administration. That took the total available for distribution to $47MM. From there, the board discussed and voted to set aside $7MM for programming grants. (For our area, this would be the Blue Zones project.)
They then began to discuss the projects in the current round and how to distribute the remaining $40MM. It was an interesting process. Apparently, the board had reviewed and ranked the applications prior to the meeting. From that, the SBERP staff had categorized the applications in three groups, A, B & C. The A-list projects were those that had received the most board support.
They spent a little time allowing board members to advocate for projects on the B-list that they thought should be moved to the A-list and a couple projects were moved up. From there, they pretty quickly narrowed the discussion of the A-list to one of funding shortages. Even with the reduced list, there was not sufficient funding to cover the entire A-list ask.
Five Marshall County projects made the cut. (An excerpt from the SBERP News Release is below and you can find the entire news release here.) Of those, our Water Street Townhomes was one. The Ward Commerce Center (Entrepreneur Center) was discussed as being on deck, but failed to get elevated to the A-list.
In the initial analysis, Marshall County applications didn’t do well. The board then chose to make some adjustments. Based on population, Marshall County has 10% of the SBERP region population. Funding was adjusted to bring us up to that level. There had been earlier discussions of pushing for a rural tilt, but that didn’t workout in the end. John DeSalle is our representative on the board and he did a good job of making sure we at least hit the base mark for our share.
The SBERP board expressed some melancholy over the number of good applications and the limited funds they had to distribute. That was tempered by some happiness in what projects they were able to move move forward with the funds they had.
As always, this is a mixed bag. Some of these projects may not move forward due to the funding request not being available. (The current inflation and interest rate changes just since the applications went in will prove to be challenging.) Other projects will need to be pared down to meet funding and the benefit will reduced. At least one on the list is taking funding that was not needed at all. This, like most things, is reduced to politics and we all know politics is messy.