Dubois Strong has its sights set on another big year, and there might be a hefty chunk of money waiting for the organization near the end of 2019.
In addition to supporting the Midstates Corridor project and linking manufacturers with resources that can help automate their operations, the public-private partnership could also net up to $250,000 in funding from a Regional Opportunity Initiative grant.
Dubois Strong was approved to receive a $50,000 implementation grant last month to plan a final grant proposal, but what that money would be used on is still up in the air.
“We feel like there’s a wide variety of things,” said Ed Cole, President of Dubois Strong, adding that the possibilities of the grant’s focus are still wide open. “We’re really not sure.”
The group will receive that $50,000 implementation grant in the coming weeks after it hires a consultant to work on the project. The deadline Cole has set for his organization to file the implementation plan that will come from that grant is Aug. 1, but proposals can be turned in as late as Dec. 31.
Dubois Strong aims to maximize community resources and assets to foster economic growth and attract new residents to the county. Cole said some of the biggest detractors the county currently has are related to recreation opportunities, broadband connectivity in rural areas, the opioid crisis, access to good daycare and more. One of the keys to the project, Cole said, will be leveraging other dollars and ensuring that those funds will be used in a sustainable way.
“Unfortunately, in the bigger scheme of things ... when you’re trying to solve a large problem, $250,000 is not going to be the thing that’s going to be sustainable,” he said. “So, what we want to be able to do is say, ‘Here’s a really good, solid foundation’ ... we want to be able to leverage other dollars, otherwise we’re going to be kind of a one shot.”
He did say that the funds will not be used to build a building or other brick-and-mortar structure.
The Midstates Corridor project is moving forward under the guidance of the regional development authority that is leading its charge.
Cole said that Dubois Strong plans on bringing together the Purdue University Extension manufacturing program and local industries in March to demonstrate how robotics and automation can make their work more efficient.
Some of the work started in 2018 will also continue this year, like the tours of opportunity for eighth-grade students at local manufacturing facilities and the agriculture summit hosted in conjunction with the Dubois County Soil and Water Conservation District. The group is also carefully constructing a countywide branding theme.
It’s tough for Cole to assess his organization’s success in short-term segments, but he can sense that something is working.
“The toughest thing for us is always the measurement,” he said. “But we feel like we’re making an impact. The difficulty is because employment is so high — or unemployment being so low — that attracting new people or raising the population has to be our goal. And we know that’s going to be something that’s gonna take years.”
Identifying countywide problems is the first step in the long process of fixing them.
“There is no magic bullet,” he said. “There is no quick fix. And I think that is really what is driving us.”