NEW ALBANY – The boards of commissioners of Clark, Floyd, Jefferson, Scott and Washington counties have selected the regional leaders who will serve as the board of directors for the Our Southern Indiana Regional Development Authority (RDA). The five individuals who make up the Board of the new organization are:
- Dana Huber, vice president of marketing and public relations, Huber’s Orchard, Winery, & Vineyards and the Starlight Distillery, Clark County
- John Jones, founder of the John Jones Automotive Group, Washington County
- Kevin Kellems, businessman and manager of his family’s fifth-generation farm, Jefferson County
- Steve Meyer, retired, Scottsburg High School, Scott County
- Kenny Rush, independent consultant in business development, Illini Precast LLC, Floyd County
“These five directors possess a regional vision. They understand the interdependence between the communities in Southern Indiana and its impact on economic development, as well as talent attraction and retention,” said Wendy Dant Chesser, president and CEO of One Southern Indiana, in a news release.
The five members of this board were approved unanimously by the commissioners of all five counties. State statute on the formation of an RDA (IC 36-7.6) requires the representatives to have at least five years professional work experience in business, economic development, academia, private non-profit or transportation. In addition, representatives can neither be an elected official nor a member of staff from any of the member counties.
The Our Southern Indiana RDA is now the eighth established RDA in the State of Indiana, and the first to be formed since 2015. By state statute, the group is required to meet quarterly and, as a separate body, will comply with Indiana’s Open Door Law (IC 5-14-1.5-1) with public meetings.
During the 2015-2016 budget session, the Indiana General Assembly allocated $126.6 million for this purpose under the Regional Cities Initiative program, with $126 million going to RDAs centered around Evansville, Fort Wayne and South Bend. The current state budget has a smaller allocation of funds to the IEDC to be used on regional development or other “quality of place” projects. It is anticipated the IEDC will be taking application during the first quarter of 2018 for this funding.
A proposal with project plans was conceived in 2015 for the initial allocation, but the region was unable to garner the participation needed to form an RDA. While some of the project plans could be considered by the newly formed RDA board, adjustments will need to be made for Jefferson County, which was not formally a part of the 2015 planning process. Initial concepts that could be revived include waterfront development initiatives, expansion of telecommunications and high-speed internet in rural areas, projects that could work to attract and retain a skilled labor pool and the creation and implementation of a water resource management plan.
“The RDA is a necessary step in gaining access to funding through the Regional Cities Initiative,” Chesser said in the release. “The initiative is an incredible economic development tool that can be used to strength local businesses through workforce development, attraction and retention. It is also an incentive for private developers to invest in projects that would benefit the citizens of all five counties. As the chamber and economic development organization for two of the five counties involved, 1si stands ready to assist the RDA board in any capacity they request.”