Food & Beverage fund applications open Sept. 7; Committee planning final recommendations in December

Henry County has an official timeline for the 2021 Food & Beverage Fund grants.

There is about $1.2 million worth of Food & Beverage Tax money available to local tourism and economic development projects. The Henry County Council will make the final decision on how to spend the money.

The Food & Beverage Fund advisory committee, made of citizen appointees from around the county, was formed to do the homework on each project.

The committee’s job will be to vet project requests, figure out how closely they adhere to the tourism/economic development mission, and figure out how much each request should get.

The advisory committee decided Tuesday that they will open applications by Sept. 7 for project requests. The New Castle Henry County Economic Development Corp. will set up a website for applications.

The deadline will be 5 p.m. Oct. 29.

The advisory committee hopes to have a final recommendation to the Henry County Council by Dec. 16.

Working on the process

A big part of Tuesday’s discussion centered around how to “grade” the project requests when they come in.

Three points that the committee members agreed on are: the projects must be about tourism or economic development; the grants are for government agencies or non-profit groups; and the group asking must have a 20 percent match for the project total.

Committee member Dave Wagner presented a draft a sample scorecard the committee could use to judge each request.

Landon Dean, president of the committee, asked the other members to look over the scorecard and bring recommendations back to their next meeting, which is at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 31.

The committee is still working out specifics of how (or if) they will do in-person interviews or narrow down all the submitted requests.

Committee vice president Corey Murphy reminded the other appointees that not every application they receive will be funded or fully funded.

Murphy said another challenge for the committee will be deciding if they recommend funding one large project or multiple smaller projects.

State Representative Tom Saunders attended Tuesday’s the meeting, as did other local officials.

Saunders talked a little about the history of the Food & Beverage Tax and the work he’s done with other state lawmakers to tweak the tax.

The Food & Beverage Tax was originally created to fund the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. It was later used to help build the Henry County Ivy Tech campus. Over the years, it has also been used to buy billboards on Interstate 70, purchase signs for historic cemeteries and build a road extension in the New Castle Industrial Park.

Saunders expects the committee will receive many more applications than they expect. Dean, who served on a previous version of the Food & Beverage committee, warned his fellow committee members that they will have to say “No” to some good projects and hurt some people’s feelings.

“Thank you for serving on the committee. I don’t envy you at all,” Saunders said. “I think maybe you might look at one or two large ones versus a lot of little ones, whatever benefits the county the best.”

– Story by Travis Weik (editor@thecouriertimes.comof The Courier-Times. Read more local stories at TheCourierTimes.com.

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