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Stellar Pathways Program

2024

In January 2024, OCRA launched the improved Stellar Pathways Program, building off of previous reiterations of the Stellar Communities Program.  The Stellar Pathways Program is a multi-agency, multi-million-dollar investment initiative led by the Office of Community and Rural Affairs.

The program works with communities within a county boundary on a shared vision for community and economic development, promotes local and regional partnerships, and assists in implementing sustainable solutions to challenges facing Indiana’s rural communities. The Stellar Pathways program will provide resources for transformative quality of place, community, and regional improvements by:

  • Enhancing Regional Planning
    • Stellar Pathways, built on OCRA's extensive experience with Stellar Communities, Regional Stellar, and the Hoosier Enduring Legacy Program, is focused on accelerating regional planning. The program is designed to scale up local capacity while regional teams create holistic, collaborative plans for community and economic development.
  • A Collaborative Approach
    • The Stellar Pathways program embodies a spirit of collaboration, mirrored by State partners: the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, Indiana Destination Development Corporation, Indiana Department of Transportation, Indiana Department of Health, and Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
  • Resource-Rich Partnerships
    • Through these strategic partnerships, Stellar Pathways is poised to offer the necessary resources for transformative quality-of-place improvements. Participants will tap into time-tested community development strategies by leveraging existing assets to stimulate increased regional investment through state and local partnerships.

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 in partnership with either a County Government or a non-profit County leader such as a community foundation or an economic development agency.

Additionally, OCRA & Stellar Pathway partners held three two-day workshops on February 15-16, February 22-23, March 4-5.

Attendance at a Stellar Pathways Workshop is required to submit an LOI.

Letter of Intent Submission

The submission portal for the Stellar Pathways Letters of Intent is now live.

You can access the portal here.

Here are some important details about the portal:

  1. No Log-in Required: Unlike some platforms, our submission portal does not require you to create an account or log in. Simply follow the provided link to access it directly.
  2. No Saving Feature: Please note that submitters will not have the option to save their progress and return to it later. To ensure a smooth submission process, we recommend preparing your answers in advance and copying them into the portal when you're ready to submit.
  3. No Post-Submission Edits: Once your application is submitted, it cannot be edited. Therefore, we advise reviewing your responses carefully before finalizing your submission.

Letters of Intent must be submitted by May 1st at 4 p.m. ET.

If you have any questions or require assistance, please don't hesitate to reach out to Andrea Kern (AKern1@ocra.in.gov) or your dedicated Community Liaison.

Resources

To learn more about the updated program and ways to get involved, visit the following resources:

Frequently Asked Questions

Featured Quick Facts / Questions

Click here for the full Stellar Pathways Program FAQ.

  • Which communities are eligible to apply for the program?
    • Any incorporated Indiana community of any size that is not entitled to direct Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding through U.S. HUD is eligible to apply.
    • A Region encompasses a 1.) County or County Leader AND 2.) at least one municipality within the county.
    • County leaders such as community foundation, chambers of commerce, economic development organizations, redevelopment organizations, etc., can be the lead applicant.
    • At the time of LOI submission, all participating communities within the region must be in good standing with the State.
    • Communities NOT eligible to apply, due to participation in existing large-scale capacity building programs include:
      • Auburn, Jay County, Mentone, Milford, Pierceton
      • Vincennes, Dubois County, Jasper
      • Franklin County, Brookville, Dublin, Cambridge City, Connersville
      • Fortville, Shirley, Greenfield, Hancock County
      • Allen County, Grabill, New Haven, Woodburn, Monroeville, Leo-Cedarville
      • Plymouth, LaPaz, Culver, Bremen, Bourbon, Argos, Marshall County
      • New Castle
    • Due to open grants and supporting communities in prioritizing time-sensitive funding previously awarded, OCRA determined 2018 and 2019 Stellar designees, PreservINg Main Street designees and HELP communities will not be eligible to apply for the 2024 round of Stellar Pathways. In keeping with the guidance already provided to HELP communities, OCRA has determined that for the 2024 round of Stellar Pathways, Wayne County and Kosciusko County are eligible to partner with communities that did not receive CDBG-CV funds to attend a Stellar Pathways Workshop and submit an LOI. Other HELP participating counties remain ineligible to apply for Stellar Pathways due to county-led CDBG-CV applications. Once HELP communities achieve release of funds for all CDBG-CV funded projects, they may apply for CDBG programs and Stellar Pathways.
  • If I am a previous Stellar Designee, am I still eligible to be a part of a region that is applying?

    Yes, previous Stellar designees are eligible to apply. However, Stellar Communities 2018 Health & Heritage Regions and New Allen Alliance Regions are ineligible to apply. Additionally, Stellar Communities 2019 Marshall County Crossroads is also ineligible to apply. This includes the following municipalities:

    • Fortville, Shirley, Greenfield, Hancock County
    • Allen County, Grabill, New Haven, Woodburn, Monroeville, Leo-Cedarville
    • Plymouth, LaPaz, Culver, Bremen, Bourbon, Argos
  • What are the requirements for establishing a region?
    • County government or county-wide nonprofit in partnership with at least one municipality.
    • Must be able to describe how and why the region was developed.
  • Is there a limit on how many partners can be in a region?
    • No. A minimum of two partners is required but there is no limit. The number of partners is not a factor for selecting finalists or designees.
  • If my community participates in the Stellar Pathways program, will the community's local match be eligible for the READI 2.0 program’s requirement of 1:1 match from local public funding?
    • Yes.
  • What are the funding amounts available from each partner agency?
    • Designated Stellar Pathways communities may be eligible to apply for up to the amounts listed below.
    • However, a designated Stellar Pathways community is not guaranteed to receive the maximum amount available.
    • Local match is required between 10-20% for total region depending on the funding set-asides.
    • The amounts shown below represent the total amounts available from each partner agency. Funding will be divided among Stellar designees.
    • Additional funding sources may be identified by Stellar Community partners that are not set-aside or identified in the following matrix.
      PROGRAMOCRAINDOTIHCDAISDHDNRIDSAIDDC
      CDBG$8,000,000      
      Rural Federal Aid Program $3,000,000     
      Health & Wellness Program   $75,000   
      Home Investment Partnerships Program (HOME)
      Home Buyers vs. Home Renters
        $1,500,000 per community housing development organization    
      Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)
      Historic Preservation Fund (HPF)
          Bonus Points:
      5% to LWCF,
      20% to HPF
        
      Indiana Agricultural Grant Program     $100,000 per community towards a Food Systems Grant 
      Indiana Destination Marketing Package      $50,000-$100,000 of marketing in-kind services
  • What is the time frame for project completion?
    • All projects, including complimentary projects, should be expected to be completed within five years after the Stellar Pathways designation. All applications should be submitted within three years of designation.
  • If designated, how will funding be awarded?

    Individual projects will be funded based on eligibility criteria. Projects will require an application, a review for eligibility and approval by each funding agency. FAQ Stellar Pathways Program.

  • What is the timeline for the Stellar Pathway Participants?
    • January 2024 - Program Launch
    • February-March 2024 - Regional Workshops
    • April-May 2024 - Applicants gather materials for the letter of intent
    • May 2024 - Letters of intent are due to OCRA
    • June 2024 - Announcement of Stellar Pathways participants
    • July-October 2024 - Stellar Pathways participants will develop their Strategic Investment Plans
    • Aug. 12, 2024 - Ball State University Workshop with Stellar Pathways Finalists
    • Aug. 29 & 30, 2024 -  Finalist Agency Days at Indiana Government Center South, 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
    • November 2024 - Strategic Investment Plans are due to OCRA. In-person presentations to the Stellar Pathways Committee.
    • January 2025 - Announcement of two Stellar Pathways designees
  • What is the timeline for the Stellar Pathways Finalists?
    • Aug. 12 -  Ball State ICI workshop
    • Aug. 29-30 - "Agency Days" -  An opportunity for finalists to bring project specific questions and receive technical assistance on projects and programs being considered for inclusion in the SIP. This will be held over two days in Indiana Government Center South from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
    • Nov. 1 - SIP due by 12 p.m. ET
    • Dec. 3 and Dec. 6 - Days held for SIP presentation in Indianapolis

    *Please note, all days listed above for Stellar Pathways finalists take place in 2024*


After careful consideration of funding considerations, staffing capacity, and the need to evaluate 2024 programmatic changes, communities’ next opportunity to apply for the Stellar Pathways program, following the 2024 round, will be in 2026. This decision is rooted in our agency’s mission to create valuable and responsive programming. It also enables the agency to create additional opportunities for capacity-building programs and work towards the ultimate goal of offering the program annually.


Stellar Investment Statistics 2011-2023

The graphic shows the level of investment from the State of Indiana, local unit of government match and investment and private investment. Of the 17 designees to date, the state has dedicated approximately $193 million. Local governments, including counties, cities, and towns, have allocated approximately $154 million towards local investment in the Stellar projects and complementary projects. Lastly, Stellar Communities designees have received an outstanding $831 million in private investment to support their economic development efforts to create safe, sustainable, and thriving communities.

Total Stellar Investments

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.