Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

February 20, 2014

MARK BENNETT: Healing Indiana's Achilles' heel

House bill authorizes study to assess metros' needs.

(Continued)

He referred to a proposal before the Indiana Legislature, House Bill 1035. It’s wording sounds vague, and would require the Indiana Economic Development Corp. to “assess Indiana’s regional metropolitan areas” and deliver a report on the needs of each metro by Oct. 1. The study would include “recommendations on initiatives and improvements in each regional city that will lead to regional economic growth.” What could that lead to?

Smith alluded to a fund, pooled from public and private resources, perhaps as large as $1 billion. Using as models the Hoosier cities that already have strong “quality of place” attributes, other metros could seek a slice of those funds for enhancement projects. “Maybe it’s a park along the river,” Smith said. “Maybe it’s an infrastructure investment. Maybe it’s a ‘first we want to do this, then we want to do this,’ to encourage not only the infrastructure piece of it, but also the quality of place.”

Terre Haute’s well-planned Riverscape project comes to mind, especially elements such as the cantilever pedestrian bridge across the Wabash, the riverbank trail running beneath the Dresser and Dreiser bridges and south toward Interstate 70, and the pedestrian bridge over Third Street to safely reach the riverfront area.

House Bill 1035 only authorizes the study to assess metros’ needs and plans. It doesn’t detail any mechanism to create such a $1 billion fund. Its author, Rep. Steve Braun, a Zionsville Republican, expects the General Assembly to approve the study. Once that information is gathered by October, a funding plan would follow in the 2015 legislative session, Braun hopes.

Communities stand a better chance of realizing their quality of life initiatives if they’re pursued on a regional basis, Braun said. “I believe that when we do economic development planning, it is foolish to think that we can do that on a city or county level,” he added.

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