Lt. Governor Ellspermann hosts showcase for 2015 Stellar Communities Designation Program Finalists

Indianapolis - Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann today hosted a showcase for the 2015 Stellar Communities Designation Program finalists who included Crawfordsville, Decatur, Dunkirk, Marion and North Liberty. Each of the finalists presented their local community’s in-depth Strategic Investment Plans (SIP) and highlighted the work, assessments and partnerships that go into the strategic planning.

Launched in 2011, the Stellar Communities Designation Program is a multi-agency partnership designed to recognize Indiana's smaller communities that have identified comprehensive community and economic development projects and activities as well as next steps and key partnerships.

Based on feedback from previous years, for 2015 the designations were divided into two divisions. Division I are communities of a population of 6,000 or more and Division II are communities with populations of fewer than 6,000. 

After the presentations, the Lt. Governor applauded the teamwork from both the communities and state agencies. She then announced for Division I, the city of Crawfordsville in Montgomery County and for Division II, the town of North Liberty in St. Joseph County as the 2015 Stellar Communities Designees.

“I continue to be extremely impressed by the quality of work and dedication of the communities who apply for the Stellar Communities Designation. Once again this year we saw five thoughtful plans,” commented Lt. Governor Ellspermann. “Crawfordsville and North Liberty rose to the top with their innovative and comprehensive plans that are set to strengthen their downtown areas and have transformative long term impacts on their local communities.”

Like most communities, Division I Designee Crawfordsville recognizes their downtown area is the heart of the city. A major component of their proposal focuses on broadening the immediate downtown area to include a co-working space, Fusion 54 as an asset for both local residents and Wabash College students to utilize for business start up and development opportunities. Also included in the proposal are projects to create a pocket park, trails and other improvements to the city streets making Crawfordsville much more accessible to thousands of area residents and visitors to the city.

Division II Designee North Liberty’s proposal focuses on continuing their significant population growth driven by the reputation of their award winning schools and their ability to attract new business development. Major projects include stonework in the Historic North Liberty Park, the expansion of their senior housing, building a trail to Potato Creek State Park and implementation of a Main Street façade program to make them more attractive and viable in an effort to increase tourism in their town.

Lt. Governor Ellspermann and state agency representatives will travel to Crawfordsville on Friday, September 4 and North Liberty on Friday, September 18 for local “Stellarbration” events to commemorate the designation with each community. Exact times and further details will be announced at a later date.

Thirteen communities submitted proposals for the 2015 Stellar Communities Designation Program year. After evaluating the plans, the top five communities were chosen as finalist who received planning grants and were then required to submit local Strategic Investment Plans detailing projects, partnerships and proposed sources of funding. Site visits were then conducted by the state Stellar Team comprised of staff, representing the partnering agencies, following a standard agenda, tour of the sites and questions about the projects.

Also new for 2015 is the expansion of the number of state agency partners for the Stellar Communities Designation Program. Originated by IHCDA, OCRA and INDOT, state agency partners now include:

  • Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA)
  • Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA)
  • Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT)
  • Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR)
  • Indiana Finance Authority (IFA)
  • Indiana Office of Small Business and Entrepreneurship (OSBE)
  • Indiana Office of Tourism Development (IOTD)
  • Indiana State Department of Health – Division of Nutrition & Physical Activity (ISDH)
  • Serve Indiana

Funding for the Stellar Communities Designation Program comes from multiple existing federal programs. Both communities have proposed projects involving public and private dollars; although they have been designated as a Stellar Community, the projects are proposals and no specific funds are guaranteed. Both communities will meet with representatives from the state Stellar Team in the coming weeks to discuss details of the proposed projects including feasibility, available funding, timeframes and partner participation.

The finalist communities will also receive follow up visits as an opportunity to discuss details about their submitted SIPs and provide feedback on the process. 

Eligible applicants must be a Local Unit of Government which includes a city or incorporated town not entitled to direct Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Additionally, if an interested  community is located within a Metropolitan Planning Organization’s area, they must follow a set of steps including letters of recommendation and financing requirements.