The State of Indiana hopes to encourage collaboration with this year’s round of Stellar Community designations. Each year since 2011, the program has designated two cities or towns as Stellar Communities, making them eligible for millions of dollars in seed money from the state and federal government, to improve quality of life. This year, the state’s taking a slightly different approach, picking two regions, instead.
Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch oversees the program. She says the idea is to follow the model set by the Regional Cities Initiative. “We wanted to do the same thing with our Stellar Communities Program,” she explains, “and so we call it – I don’t know if we even have an official name. I like to refer to it as the Regional Stellar Communities Program. So this year, for the first time, we required two or more communities – and it could be a city and a city, it could be a county and a city, it could be a county and a county, it could be a town and a town, but more than one local entity – to come together.”
Crouch says the regional approach appears to be opening the program up to communities who may not have considered applying on their own. “The Town of Vincennes put in an application with the Town of Bicknell, which is a very small community about 15 minutes from Vincennes,” she says. “And so it’s an opportunity for those larger communities to elevate the smaller communities also, within a near vicinity.”
As part of the shift, the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs plans to provide $4.5 million to each of the two Stellar regions, compared to the $2 million it’s given to individual communities. Crouch says that seed money often leads to a ripple of local investment. “That encourages local communities, local governments, to also invest money, and then the private sector because it becomes contagious, that excitement.”
Locally, Marshall County Crossroads is one of the six finalists for the first regional round of Stellar Communities Designations. It’s made up of the county itself, along with its six municipalities. Officials in Starke County are working on a similar effort for 2019.
Lieutenant Governor Crouch discussed the program during her visit to Culver last week.