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The money could serve as a game-changer for our region, and while the entire Our Southern Indiana Regional Development Authority Board deserves credit, one leader’s determination warrants a “Thank You” from all of us.

After Floyd County and Harrison County failed to join a regional effort to apply for funding in 2015, some believed the idea of collaboration was dead. Wendy Dant Chesser, president and CEO of One Southern Indiana, wasn’t one of those people.

Without any guarantee more money would be made available, Chesser and other Southern Indiana officials moved forward. In 2017, Clark, Floyd, Jefferson, Scott and Washington counties established an RDA. The plan they formed that helped serve as the starting point for Tuesday’s $50 million grant won a state award in 2020. It was painfully ironic considering some elected officials in Floyd County and Harrison County had decided five years previously that the joint effort wasn’t worthy of their involvement.

In March of 2021, the faith of Chesser and other RDA supporters was bolstered. Federal COVID-19 relief funding was awarded to the state, and Indiana lawmakers and the governor decided to allocate some of it for a second round of regional development grants.

Chesser rallied the troops, and this time, Floyd County got on board.

Through a transparent process, our local RDA garnered project requests, spanning from constructing trails to developing town centers, and that proposal was approved for $50 million through the Indiana Regional Development Initiative.

Many people will take credit for the READI grant, but the ones who did the most work are asking for little acknowledgement. Chesser is one of those people.

Our local and state elected officials, who will be able to tout the projects leveraged by this grant when they seek re-election, can thank Chesser and the RDA by viewing Southern Indiana through the same lens as our Chamber of Commerce leader.

Regionalism and collaboration accomplish far more than individual efforts. There’s nothing wrong with having pride in a city or county, but Southern Indiana can only reach its potential when we cooperate with one another. And based on Tuesday’s announcement, many important people across the state believe we have a lot of potential.

It’s time for Floyd County and New Albany elected officials to put aside past differences and work together for the good of the people. New Albany should partner with the River Heritage Conservancy to develop Origin Park. There’s tension between Clarksville and Jeffersonville leadership even though the communities are side-by-side.

Even within the same county, there are often differences between council members and commissioners that hurt progress.

It’s a new day in Southern Indiana. Chesser and the RDA team have proven what collaboration can accomplish to the tune of $50 million. As we move forward, let’s see our community the same way that state officials did in approving the Our Southern Indiana plan — a region with limitless possibilities.

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