Trail system, riverfront development included in “Regional Cities” plan

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) Allen and ten surrounding counties have submitted their final plan to the state in hopes of getting more than $40 million for projects in northeast Indiana.

The full plan highlights $1.4 billion in investments for 70 projects. All of the projects focus on quality of life with the goal of bumping up the region’s population to one million people.

“If we don’t change the way we’re growing our population we’re going to have fewer workers in the workforce. If we have fewer workers in the workforce over the next 10 years we’re going to have fewer jobs. If we can’t fill jobs we have today how are we going to attract anybody new or grow existing companies without having that labor force,” Greater Fort Wayne Inc. Executive Vice President John Urbahns said.

Right now nearly 800,000 people call northeast Indiana home.

“If we continue to grow at .7 percent it’s going to take us 52 years to get to one million people. If we start to change the dynamics of our economy, change the quality of place we become a place where talent is attracted to, jobs are attracted to, we can get to that million in 15 years,” Urbahns said.

The eleven counties came up with a plan to reach that goal under the Regional Cities Initiative. It spans eight years, and highlights 38 projects, $400 million in investments, for the first two years. All of the projects focus on improving the quality of life around the region.

“It really fell into a number of categories. A couple of the big categories were downtown vibrancy, arts and culture and blueways and greenways,” Urbahns said.

Urbahns said the biggest projects are a regional trail network and riverfront development. Northeast Indiana is just one “regional city” across the state. Only two will receive the $42 million.

“This isn’t about just going after state funding this is about what are the projects we need to do to make sure that we’re capable of having a 21st century economy,” Urbahns said.

The plan will go before a state review board in October. Members can then make a recommendation to the committee that will hand out the $42 million in December.

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