Stellar Communities Program
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Stellar Communities Program is suspended for the year. It is critical that we uphold the integrity of the program’s planning processes and in this new environment, that could prove difficult. Stellar funds will be re-allocated for response or other related programming. Regions intending to apply for the program will be contacted by OCRA to discuss next steps. For future years, we will continue to work with our State program partners on enhancements and updates.
For 2021, OCRA will continue with the suspension of multiple programs in response to COVID-19 including Stellar Communities Program. Our decision reflects the priority of maintaining flexibility to respond to the impact of the pandemic on rural communities. We will continue to evaluate the pandemic's impact and priorities of rural communities to determine the feasibility of reinstating suspended programs.
Given the increased competitiveness within economic development, a regionalism trend has evolved as a popular strategy across the US. Indiana is joining the cutting edge and incorporating regionalism into one of our most successful programs: the Stellar Communities Program. Beginning in January 2018, the program evolved into to a regional partnership design. A minimum of two or more communities are encouraged to partner to create a self-selected region. Population divisions are no longer a program component.
Any incorporated Indiana community of any size that are not entitled to direct Community Development Block Grant funding through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development are eligible to apply.
Through annual designation, the Stellar Communities Program provides resources for transformative quality of place, community and regional improvements by:
- Fostering regional collaborative behaviors and investment;
- Stemming the tide of non-metropolitan population loss through talent attraction and retention;
- Building sustainability;
- Building capacity with municipal governance; and
- Leveraging quality of places through comprehensive and transformative planning processes building on current assets.
Ball State University and Purdue University are also partners with their involvement to include project support, guidance and data analytics. Ball State University’s Indiana Communities Institute will assist communities in the planning stages with project alignment and data analytics. While Purdue University’s Center for Regional Development will assist communities post-designation with long-term sustainability efforts and project implementation.
In 2018, is funding from The State Office of Rural Health, a division of the Indiana State Department of Health. The grant totals $75,000 for the designee region for projects that address health and wellness issues within the respective regions. Projects can address a challenge identified in their Community Health Assessment. This grant only applies to those regions who are selected as a designee moving forward. To learn about the requirements for this funding, please continue to our resources page.
In 2019, another program update was announced. After engagement and feedback from rural communities, a thorough review of the regional pilot program and the continued goal to create the greatest transformational impact, the program will be designating one region moving forward. While the majority of the resources will be allocated to the designated region, other finalist regions will be eligible to receive a portion of $1 million, to be used towards the advancement of their regional development plans.
Launched in 2011, the Stellar Communities Program is a multi-year, multi-million dollar investment initiative led by the Office of Community and Rural Affairs. The program works with self-selected regions on their vision for community and economic development, promotes local and regional partnerships and assists in implementing innovative solutions to challenges facing Indiana’s rural communities. To view all the state agencies who partner with OCRA to make this program possible, click here.
2019 Program Finalists
Each finalists completed a Regional Development Plan and presented an overview of this plan to the State team in November. Click the links below to read their plan:
- Constellation of Starke, which consists of Hamlet, Knox, North Judson and Starke County;
- Jay! Region, which is comprised of the Dunkirk, Portland, Pennville, Redkey and Jay County;
- Marshall County Crossroads, which consists of Argos, Bourbon, Bremen, Culver, Plymouth and Marshall County; and
- Safe and Welcome, which is comprised of Knightstown, New Castle and Henry County
To read the full finalists press release, click here. The designee was announced on Thursday, December 5: Marshall County Crossroads.
“I am so proud of Marshall County Crossroads and the work they have done to improve the quality of life for all their residents, and to attract new visitors,” said Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch. “This designation will further boost their continued development efforts, strengthen their regional partnerships and, ultimately, bring their innovative ideas to life.” - read the full release here.
Want more general program information?
If you have any questions, please contact your OCRA Community Liaison.
All Stellar Communities Designees
2011: Greencastle & North Vernon
2012: Delphi & Princeton
2013: Bedford & Richmond
2014: Huntingburg & Wabash
2015: Crawfordsville & North Liberty
2016: Corydon & Rushville
2017: Madison & Culver
2018: Health & Heritage Region (Hancock) & New Allen Alliance (Allen)
2019: Marshall County Crossroads (Marshall)
Launched in 2011, the Stellar Communities program is a multi-agency partnership designed to recognize smaller communities and now regions that identify comprehensive and collaborative plans for community and economic development.
Through annual designation, the program provides resources for transformative quality of place community improvements by:
- Utilizing previous planning efforts
- Leveraging existing assets
- Fostering regional investments
- Stimulating continued growth for long-term relevance
Stellar Communities was recognized nationally as a premier community development program when it received the 2012 President's Award for Innovation from the Council of State Community Development Agencies.
To date, more than 107 communities have participated in the process; 33 have completed Strategic Investment Plans/Regional Development Plans, and 17 have received the Stellar Communities Designation.
The Sagamore Institute was tasked to investigate and provide an ongoing report on the lessons learned and successes of this program. Read the 2017 report here. For more information or to read other reports, visit stellarindiana.org.