The Studebaker building also received help through the Regional Cities program. The developer believes it will ultimately become a tech hub. Staff photo by Santiago Flores
The Studebaker building also received help through the Regional Cities program. The developer believes it will ultimately become a tech hub. Staff photo by Santiago Flores
SOUTH BEND — Indiana’s Regional Cities Initiative helped serve as a catalyst for hundreds of millions of dollars in development in St. Joseph, Elkhart and Marshall counties and is expected to help the region grow well into the future.

That’s why leaders in the region are puzzled why the state didn’t include a similar program in this year’s biennial budget in order to help other parts of Indiana that are suffering from population declines caused by people moving to areas that are considered more vibrant.

“I believe the Regional Cities Initiative will likely become a national framework for revitalizing urban growth in Midwest and southern cities that are failing to thrive in the 21st century,” said Michael Hicks, an economics professor at Ball State University.

“I also think the (Mike) Pence administration did a remarkable job in making this small progressive policy into a winner for Indiana,” Hicks said, referring to the vice president’s time as governor of Indiana. “It was shortsighted and disappointing that Indiana has stepped away from a policy that will likely become a national model in years to come.”

Hicks was involved in studies that sought to quantify the benefits of the program, which distributed $42 million apiece to the northcentral, northeastern and southwestern regions of the state.

The program forced regions to work together to identify the most important projects that would serve to improve the quality of place in each area. Identified projects could have no more than an additional 20 percent in public money, meaning that 60 percent had to come from private sources.

Developer Dave Matthews said the 10-story tower that is currently underway in the East Bank neighborhood in South Bend wouldn’t be happening without the boost from the state. That $42 million project received $4.9 million from Regional Cities and about $5 million in tax increment finance from the city.
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