Regional Development Authority

The South Bend - Elkhart region, home to 47 Smart Connected Communities in Northern Indiana and Southwest Michigan, is on its way to becoming one of the nation’s great regions.
The Regional Development Authority (RDA) was formed in 2014 to apply for a Regional Cities Initiative grant and to oversee economic development projects of regional importance. Michiana Partnership was engaged to administer the work on behalf of the 5-member board appointed by the executives of Elkhart, Marshall and St. Joseph Counties and the municipalities within those counties.

The Northern Indiana Regional Development Authority (RDA) was formed in late 2014 as a quasi-governmental authority, governed by a five-member board, to carry out economic development projects in Elkhart, Marshall and St. Joseph Counties and the municipalities within those counties.

The South Bend – Elkhart region was one of three in Indiana to win a $42 million grant from the state’s Regional Cities Initiative, intended to be matching grants to spur growth and development by funding transformative quality-of-place projects. The RDA is implanting those funds into a portfolio of projects that will result in over $200 million in investment, including renovations to South Bend’s former Studebaker buildings, improvements to downtown riverfronts, the addition of mixed use residential and retail amenities and the construction of a number of recreational facilities including a world-class natatorium in downtown Elkhart.

The region was one of three in Indiana to win a $42 million grant from the Indiana Regional Cities Initiative. The $126 million given to the regions around the South Bend - Elkhart region, Fort Wayne and Evansville are intended to be matching grants to spur growth and development.
Through the Innovate Indiana Plan, North Central Indiana is planning 40 regional development projects with $736.93 million in investment, including renovations to South Bend’s former Studebaker buildings, improvements to downtown riverfronts, the addition of mixed use residential and retail amenities and the construction of a number of recreational facilities including a world-class natatorium in downtown Elkhart.

Strategizing to get stronger

In early 2016, the Northern Indiana Regional Development Authority invited 15 leaders from the three counties to work together to develop underlying principles for a regional development plan. The group gathered regularly for eight months to discuss how to improve as a region and which areas need the most attention. Following these discussions, Karl King, retired partner with Crowe Horwath LLC, drafted “A Plan for Prosperity, Growth and Inclusion Version 1.0.” The 90-page report outlines in detail the data points for the region compared to benchmarks from peer regions, including Appleton, WI; Cedar Rapids, IA; Lancaster, PA; Wichita, KS; and York, PA.

The grant was a catalyst for regional collaboration and in 2016, a situational analysis led by the RDA and 15 regional leaders resulted in the following five pillars as the underlying principles for a comprehensive regional development plan.

  • Educating a world-class WORKFORCE.
  • Recruiting and retaining great TALENT.
  • Attracting and growing new economy companies in complement to our remarkably strong manufacturing INDUSTRIES.
  • Promoting INCLUSION and sparking opportunities for minorities.
  • Helping ENTREPRENEURS thrive.