Grant would address quality of place, workforce


Where do we go from here?

Local government boards have posed that question and taken steps to answer it in 2019, and another group aims to contribute to the conversation — as well as the direction of Dubois County’s future.

Dubois Strong is currently in the planning stage of a grant process that could bring up to $250,000 in quality of place and workforce attraction funding to the county. About 40 people gathered at the Vincennes University Jasper Campus on Wednesday afternoon for a community briefing on the organization’s ongoing plan.

“The goal of the planning effort is certainly to move some of the projects forward into implementation,” said Scott Siefker of Taylor Siefker Williams Design Group, the project’s consultants. “Whenever, as good planners, we’re talking about visioning a big idea, we always want to move things to reality.”

That plan is a step toward locking down a Regional Opportunity Initiatives Ready Communities grant. According to the ROI website, the Ready Communities Initiative “provides counties and communities the resources necessary to strategically plan for, develop, and implement projects and programs that build quality of place, grow regional capacity for workforce development and attraction, and improve the attributes and amenities that make the Indiana Uplands a desirable place to live, work, and play.”

Each Indiana Uplands county received $50,000 to develop a quality of place and workforce attraction plan. In addition to Dubois, those counties include Brown, Crawford, Daviess, Greene, Lawrence, Martin, Monroe, Orange, Owen and Washington.

The Dubois County plan creation process has yielded 16 big ideas that could be addressed with the money, including workforce housing, population attraction and retention, affordable child care, high speed internet access and more. Those priorities were culled through a review of about 30 existing county planning documents, focus group meetings and data analysis. Potential avenues for addressing the big ideas are also included in the plan.

A full copy of the 58-page document will soon be posted on the Dubois Strong website.

If the dollars do come to Dubois County, it’s possible they won’t come directly to Dubois Strong. After Wednesday’s meeting, Ed Cole, the group’s president, explained that the intention is for qualifying entities to express interest and present project plans that would tackle the issues.

In a hypothetical example, Cole said a nonprofit organization could approach Dubois Strong and pitch a solution they could work on to alleviate the affordable child care issue. If granted, the ROI dollars would be routed to them.

The first official version of the plan will be finished and submitted in the next week. After that, ROI will either approve it or suggest edits, and a finalized version will be due in early September.

At that time, a call will be put out to organizations to apply for projects detailed in the document. More than one project can be submitted for ROI funding consideration. Another round of Ready Communities Implementation grants will be dished out next year.

Clayton Boyles, executive director of the Dubois County Community Foundation, spoke as an attendee at the meeting. He said the goal is to knock off priorities in the plan with the ROI grant and through other identifiable partnerships, but even if the dollars don’t come into the county, the plan itself is still valuable for local decision-makers.

“Because they’re being able to see what really a lot of institutions and community partners are focusing on,” Boyles said. “Whether that be a small community like St. Anthony, or a larger community like Jasper, Huntingburg or Ferdinand. Because it was important to know that the right hand knew what the left hand was doing.”

He continued: “As a county, we’re not fractured by any means of not knowing what others are doing. But it’s a good inventory of what’s going on in the county.”

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