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Formation of a New Multi-County Planning District


Muncie, IN – E. Roy Budd, Executive Director of Energize-ECI, Inc., along with the Presidents of the County Commissioners from Blackford, Delaware, Grant and Jay counties, and Governor Mitch Daniels announced the formation of a new multi-county planning district, a valuable resource for assisting local governments and communities.  The district will be an operating division of Energize-ECI, the regional economic development partnership, and will be known as Energize-ECI Regional Planning District. 
The four counties involved (Blackford, Delaware, Grant and Jay) were previously un-served by a formal planning district.  The new Energize-ECI Regional Planning District was structured under Indiana Regional Planning Commission Statute I.C. 36-7-7 and was initially formed by formal resolutions approved and signed by the County Commissioners of each of the four participating counties, who contribute to the operation of the District through a funding formula related to county populations.  Upon approval by the County Commissioners, the proposal to establish a multi-county planning district was forwarded to the Indiana Economic Development Corporation and then signed by Governor Daniels. 


Definition of the Energize-ECI Regional Planning District

The Energize-ECI Regional Planning District is a state designated (Indiana Regional planning Commission statute IC 36-7-7) multi-county economic development and planning district serving the economic development and planning needs of Blackford, Delaware, Grant and Jay counties in East Central Indiana.  The organization’s scope of work is established by the State of Indiana, the U.S. Economic development Administration and focuses on the local needs of the participating counties.


“By formalizing the region’s economic development partnership, Energize-ECI will have access to additional resources, enhancing their ability to drive economic growth to Indiana.  The State is thankful to have such valuable partners that recognize that at its best, economic development is a regional effort, combining the collective strengths of community and business leaders toward common success.” said Mitch Roob, Indiana Secretary of Commerce and chief executive officer of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.


“The creation of this new planning district is a tremendous resource for Blackford, Delaware, Grant and Jay counties,” said David Terrell, Executive Director of the Office of Community and Rural Affairs.  “Taking a regional approach connects communities with new opportunities for successful local economic planning and development.”


The scope of work by the Energize-ECI Regional Planning District will include:

  1. Managing and updating the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) of the District
  2. Develop an infrastructure which will attract new industry and retain existing businesses – resulting in the creation of new jobs
  3. Ensure that local requests for federal and state economic development assistance are consistent with local, county and District-wide plans
  4. Identify funding sources that will support the priorities and projects of the District
  5. Develop and maintain close coordination with local communities and decision makers on a continual basis when seeking state and federal assistance
  6. Develop and maintain partnerships with local, regional state and federal entities to increase awareness of programs fitting District needs (including IEDC, IDOT, OCRA, EDA, DOC, USDA, DOT, Homeland Security and others)
  7. Be involved with professional organizations such as the Indiana Association of Regional Councils (IARC)
  8. Sustaining and expanding the service and programming capacity of the Energize-ECI Regional Planning District
  9. Provide meaningful and targeted technical assistance to jurisdictions and organizations related to specific economic development issues, opportunities and challenges
  10. Support and maintain inter-governmental and interagency coordination to maximize efficiency and effectiveness of operations
  11. Develop, maintain and refine accurate and timely economic, socio-economic and demographic data to be used in planning and economic development activities


The initial program and service focus of the Energize-ECI Regional Planning District will be the area of economic development:

          o CEDS management and updating

          o Grant research, needs assessments, writing and administration

          o Planning and implementing development plans

          o Technical assistance

          o Assistance with tax abatements, tax increment financing (TIFs), etc.

          o U.S. EDA planning district opportunities

          o Assist with workforce development

          o Agri-business development

          o Green Industry development

          o Environmental planning

          o Assist with economic dislocation adjustments

          o Collaborate with District resources and professionals

          o Industrial/technology park research and development

          o Brownfields redevelopment

          o Pedestrian and bicycle planning


Additional areas of programming and service for the Energize-ECI Regional planning District could include, based on area needs:

          o Community development  planning and technical assistance

          o Housing

          o Transportation and planning

          o Specialized programs and services


Comments from County Commissioners in District

“We look forward to partnering with Jay, Delaware and Grant counties as part of the Energize-ECI Regional Planning District,“ said Fred Walker, President of the Blackford County Commissioners.  “We realize the impact that a strong regional partnership can have on Blackford County residents and employees.  My hope is that this will be only the beginning of many successful collaborations between Blackford, Jay, Delaware and Grant counties.”


Todd Donati, President of the Delaware County Commissioners commented, “The impact of having the brain trust of our four counties working together to achieve the economic development and grant initiatives we need only ensures our success.  After all, helping just one really helps us all, multiplied by four.  I personally look forward to the rejuvenated challenge.”


Mark Bardsley, President of the Grant County Commissioners, added, “Grant County’s recent experience with economic growth has proven that working together, pooling resources and seeing the big picture “if one succeeds we all succeed” is a must in today’s jobs market.  We look forward to bringing that unified team approach Energize-ECI Regional planning District.  Being a part of the new planning district will better position us to assist Grant County in attaining federal grants through the EDA and also allow us to further our collaborative efforts with them as they continue to advance Grant County.”


Milo Miller, President of the Jay County Commissioners added, “We are very grateful for this type of program.  The opportunity to partner with Blackford, Delaware and Grant counties through this new District will provide us with access to grants, programs and services to help build the infrastructure needed to advance local and regional economic development.”


The formation of the new Economic Development and Planning District was the Number One Initiative of Action Strategy One of the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS Report) of the four counties, revised April 3, 2009.  Initiative One stated to “Create an EDA-approved Economic Development District (EDD).”  The multi-county planning district has applied to the EDA of the U.S. Department of Commerce for a $50,000 multi-county planning grant and wishes to eventually initiate the process of achieving EDA Regional District designation.


Roy Budd, Energize-ECI, Inc. Executive Director, stated, “We have grown our initial two county grant development collaboration started in 2008 into an multi-county regional planning district consisting of Blackford, Delaware, Grant and Jay counties.  Tom Farris has been acting as the Lead Developer of the project for the past 10 months, keeping the program moving ahead, working with local, state, IEDC and U.S. Economic Development Administration officials in structuring the organization according to statute .  Multi-county planning districts receive certain advantages when applying for federal grants, benefits not typically afforded to individual counties which are not part of a multi-county district.”


Comments from Local Economic Development Officials in District

“The creation of the new planning district will be a tremendous asset to Blackford County in a number of areas,“ responded Rob Cleveland, Executive Director of the Blackford County Economic Development Corporation.  “Blackford County has partnered with the other counties on several projects in the past and have always had successful outcomes.  The regional planning district will provide us with additional funding sources that we have not had access to in the past.  These four counties work very well together and I believe the results from the regional planning district will continue to further that relationship.”


Terry Murphy, Vice president, Economic Development for the Muncie-Delaware County, Indiana Economic Development Alliance, praised the collaborative effort by saying, “By working together as a District all counties involved benefit individually and collectively through regional solutions for opportunities and problems.  The District formation enhances our ability to utilize grant programs through the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration at higher levels than as individual counties.  These grants allow communities in the District to better compete for projects.  Grants provide significant savings to a community that can then be utilized in other economic development areas.”


Tim Eckerle, Executive Director of the Grant County Economic Growth Council, advised “We appreciate the leadership of Energize-ECI on this project, whose resources have permitted us this opportunity that can afford us a better prospect of attaining financial aid from the EDA and also push forward the goals of progressing our county.” 


Bill Bradley, Executive Director of the Jay County Development Corporation, commented “Working together with our neighboring counties in forming the four-county regional planning district will enhance our capacity to receive funding from the Economic Development Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce.  We have never availed ourselves of this funding source, but you can bet that we will now utilize this new source.”


Brad Bookout, will serve as Resource Development Manager for the new Energize-ECI Regional Planning District.   Bookout stated, “The formation of a Regional planning District for our region is vital to help align the needs and assets of the region so as to assist the counties to become more competitive in the attraction and securing of both economic development and grant opportunities.”


The primary responsibility of the district is to cooperatively develop and manage the CEDS Report for the four counties, an organized, grass-roots-developed plan, identifying the needs and priorities of the four counties which impact economic development and growth.  Using the plan as a road-map, area needs can be translated by district personnel into grant opportunities to benefit the counties, their communities and the region.  One of the initial tasks of the district is to build their Board of Directors according to statute, which details specific representation based on established criteria.  As the district organization develops and grows, additional services may be provided with other revenue streams possibly being captured.   


Some of the benefits to be gained by Blackford, Delaware, Grant and Jay counties membership in the new multi-county planning district include:

o Eligibility to apply for EDA regional planning grants

o Ability to apply for state and federal grant opportunities

o Continual identification and review of community needs in communities,

   counties and region

o Focuses on accomplishing  local, area and regional priorities

o Addresses common problems and sharing technical staff

o Encourages grassroots community involvement and input

o Community, county and regional vision development and advocacy

o Leverages the power and resources of  a regional collaboration

o Direct access to state and federal grant and loan programs

o Priority grant development status received by a multi-county planning district

o Improves the quality of life for residents throughout the District

o Support growth of existing businesses and new investment

o Determine infrastructure needs

o Provide valuable resources to community, economic developers,

   government officials and residents


Comments from Mayors of Communities within District

“On behalf of the citizens of Hartford City, I’d like to express my enthusiasm for being involved with our three neighboring counties united in the newly formed Energize-ECI Regional Planning District,” advised Dennis Whitesell, Mayor of Hartford City.  “This partnership will help leverage our resources as we seek to build a new economic foundation for the 21st century and create new jobs for the region.”


“When the CEDS was updated last year there was a strong emphasis on education and workforce development,” advised Muncie Mayor Sharon McShurley.  “Working collectively enhances our region’s ability for federal funding attainment, which enables community leaders to provide opportunity for their citizens.”


Gas City Mayor Larry Leach commented, “The EDA has been a key part of the financing of essential infrastructure improvements and the funding of public work opportunities elsewhere, and we look to have them partner alongside us as Gas City and Grant County expands.:


Wayne Seybold, Mayor of Marion, added, “This new planning district is a benefit to our county because it will allow us to have a stronger competitive edge when we are seeking financial aid from the EDA.  I am looking forward to a forum that extends across counties on topics of planning that impact economic development and is committed to the concept that the stronger the regional economy, the better quality of life and advancement opportunities there are for all residents.””


Jonesboro Mayor Jay Akers advised, “The Economic Development Administration has been has been doing a lot of good across Indiana and we are excited that with the new planning district that Energize-ECI has made happen, we can partner with them to continue our county improvements and take advantage of these prospects that have opened up for us.”


“The City of Portland is always interested in the development of partnerships in identifying resources and opportunities in building a stronger foundation for community success,” stated Portland Mayor Bruce W. Hosier.  “This regional approach will enhance and bring creditable value to our area in meeting the needs of the citizens we all have the privilege of serving.”


About Energize-ECI

Founded in 2005, Energize-ECI, Inc. is a public/private partnership providing pro-active services and programs to encourage new business investment bring new jobs to East Central Indiana.  Energize-ECI, Inc. acts as the primary point of contact for globally promoting the many advantages of operating a business in the region, collects and cultivates leads and assists individuals, site consultants and companies researching  the area.  Energize-ECI, Inc. answers inquiries regarding sites, buildings and regional information, directing the leads to appropriate local economic development groups.  Energize-ECI, Inc. provides support to: Blackford, Delaware, Fayette, Grant, Henry, Jay, Madison, Randolph and Rush counties.  Funding for trade missions, exhibits, marketing, programs, services and materials is provided by public and private entities throughout East Central Indiana, by foundations and grants.  The Energize-ECI Regional Planning District is an state-designated multi-county planning district serving Blackford, Delaware, Grant and Jay counties.  The district was established in September 2009 as an operating division of Energize-ECI, Inc.


Details about Energize-ECI, Inc. and information about East Central Indiana may be viewed at the Energize-ECI, Inc. website  The organization may be contacted at the Energize-ECI Engagement Center, 122 E, Main St., Muncie, IN 47305 (P.O. Box 1912, Muncie, IN 47308-1912); by phone at (765) 254.1420; fax (765) 254.1450 and by email  Energize-ECI’s Regional-Report newsletters and media releases, which contain updates summarizing regional economic development, may be read or downloaded by going to the website.

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