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(INDIANAPOLIS) – A new half-billion-dollar regional redevelopment fund is open for business.

The new budget Governor Holcomb signed last week uses part of Indiana’s federal pandemic relief money to create the Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative, or READI. The program calls on neighboring counties to think across county lines about ways to improve their community and make it more attractive to new businesses and residents.

The regionalized approach is the same general idea as former Governor Mike Pence’s Regional Cities Initiative, but the funding is four times larger. And Holcomb says READI covers a wider range of projects, going beyond “placemaking” to build on a region’s strengths or address weaknesses, from job training to homelessness. He says cities and counties need to think like both employers and employees, considering what improvements will make companies confident they can attract workers from a wider radius, and make prospective workers willing to settle in that area.

Indiana Economic Development Corporation officials will fan out across the state this month to explain what the IEDC is looking for. Regions have until July 1 to notify the state they intend to apply for money, and until the end of August to submit their plans. A review committee will make recommendations by the end of the year.

Holcomb says Pence’s regional cities program generated 10 times the initial investment. He says READI gives Indiana a chance to “accelerate away” from the economic shock of the pandemic.

Holcomb says the regional approach allows the state to capitalize on its mix of urban, suburban, and rural communities, to attract people who are looking for different atmospheres for where they want to live.