It is easy to take one step forward without knowing exactly where you are going. It’s only one step and it takes barely any time to get there.
What if you want to take a hundred steps? Or walk a mile?
What if you are taking steps towards the next five, 10, or 20 years?
In that case, you’d better have a plan for where you’re going.
Earlier this year, the Henry County Redevelopment Commission (RDC) sharpened their focus and redrew their map to the future.
The RDC is a five-member appointed board. Two members represent the Henry County Council and three are there for the Henry County Commissioners.
The New Castle-Henry County Economic Development Corp. (EDC) serves as the RDC’s daily staffers.
The RDC started the process this spring to update their plan for Henry County. EDC President and CEO Corey Murphy walked the plan through multiple government meetings to answer questions and explain the proposed changes.
Murphy explained that any project the RDC wants to do must be in the plan before the commission can consider participating or implementing it.
“However, not all projects will be implemented,” he said.
But at least they are options, should the RDC want to look at them.
The same goes for the RDC’s list of potential properties to add to Henry County’s portfolio. Just because a property is added to the acquisition list does not mean the RDC will ever purchase it. However, there is no way for the RDC to buy land that is not on the acquisition list yet.
“A plan is a ‘Be Ready’ document,” Murphy said. “We try to look out in our cloudy crystal ball and see what’s coming down the pike and if we think there might be an opportunity for participation, we put it in the plan. But not everything in the plan is going to happen.”
The Henry County Planning Commission was the first body outside of the RDC that needed to pass the RDC plan amendments.
Murphy spoke to the county planners on April 20 about the new plans and, specifically, tax increment finance (TIF).
The RDC uses TIF districts to pay for infrastructure improvements to pave the way, sometimes literally—for potential industrial, commercial, or residential development.
The RDC’s updated plan includes steps to create a new TIF allocation area adjacent to the existing industrial park on a 94-acre parcel that was recently re-zoned.
“We want TIF to be available as an economic development tool to attract investment to that area,” Murphy told the planners in April.
There are also plans to create a new allocation area in anticipation of a housing TIF project.
The land in question is on County Road 200N near the Ind. 3 intersection. The Henry County Commissioners rezoned the property in May to allow development of a possible Samuel Hall Estates subdivision.
Murphy said residential TIF could be a potential incentive to the developer. Henry County has two residential TIF districts already: the housing development behind the YMCA and the development in Knightstown near Big Blue River.
He explained that the developer would back any bond in the residential TIF. The proceeds of the bond issue would assist with the installation of public infrastructure, such as road, drainage, water, sewer, and sidewalks.
The TIF would capture taxes generated from the new homes in the TIF district and those taxes would repay the bond. Murphy said no other public funding would be pledged to the housing project.
“This could make the project viable and also put a downward pressure on the price point on the homes,” he said.
The Redevelopment Commission also wants funding to continue in Henry County’s talent attraction program. The county currently participates in “Make My Move,” a program where communities offer incentives for remote workers looking for a new place to live.
Henry County’s “Make My Move” relocation package includes $5,000 in cash, free internet for a year, local gym and golf course memberships, state park passes and more.
The Henry County RDC also wants continued funding to support downtown building redevelopment in the smaller towns across the county. The RDC has been involved with New Castle’s downtown redevelopment. It wants to offer similar façade grants to other communities.
“Essentially, we want to be able to model what New Castle is doing, on a smaller scale,” Murphy said.
Murphy said the plan amendments will also provide funds via an inter-local agreement with the New Castle RDC for supporting a residential project located in the city between WalMart and Jamestown apartments. If this project happens, the city RDC would likely offer a TIF incentive.
The Henry County RDC would like the ability to offer some upfront funding for that project.
Murphy said the county RDC would also like the ability to provide funds toward the construction of a child-care facility.
Finally, the new plan will let the RDC contribute to existing building improvements and/or new construction for the purpose of housing EMS stations in the southern and northern areas of Henry County.
“All of those bullet points, we want the ability (to do). We may not do any of them,” Murphy said. “But we want the ability to do them. We want to put them in our plan.”
The RDC plan amendments—having passed through public hearings and at least four votes—were finalized in May with a final vote by the Henry County Commissioners.
-This article was written by Travis Weik, Editor of The Courier Times, as part of the 200 Anniversary special section. Learn more about The Courier-Times at thecouriertimes.com. Contact Travis Weik at (Editor@TheCourierTimes.com).