ANDERSON — The cities of Anderson, Muncie and New Castle are partnering with assistance from a federal grant for the development of a regional strategic plan.
The automotive industry was once a major employer in the cities of Anderson, Muncie and New Castle. That all changed in recent years as the three communities look to diversify their economies.
The Anderson Board of Public Works on Tuesday approved a memorandum of understanding to work together on a regional plan with the hiring of Vandewalle & Associates, which is based in Wisconsin, to complete the plan.
Each community is providing $50,000 toward the cost of the $249,154 contract with the remaining funds coming from an Economic Development Administration matching grant of $150,000.
The Muncie Economic Development Corp. is administering the grant funds.
Pete Heuer, chairman of the Board of Works, said the three communities were hit hard by the loss of jobs in the auto industry.
The strategic plan will look at brownfield sites, former factory locations that require environmental remediation, workforce development and economic development efforts.
“What do the three communities have in common?” Greg Winkler, director of the Anderson Economic Development Department, said. “How this all ties together. The strategic plan will look at everything.”
With Anderson’s efforts to link with the Indianapolis metropolitan area, Winkler said it’s important to have a regional plan in place.
Winkler said the main advantage of the development of a regional strategic plan is that there is a small pool of cities and regions that are eligible for federal funding. The region could secure up to $25 million in federal funding.
“Workforce development is at the top of the list,” Winkler said. “Retraining is the No. 1 issue in the region.”
The development of the strategic plan could take one year, but Winkler is hopeful it will be completed within six months.