November 9, 2019 at 5:41 a.m.

Presentation is Thursday

Jay! Region reps will make case to state
Presentation is Thursday
Presentation is Thursday

The final opportunity to make sure the stars are aligned in Jay County’s favor comes next week.

The process of seeking the state’s Stellar Communities designation concludes Thursday, when members of the Jay! Region’s leadership team will make their final presentation to state officials at Indiana Government Center South in Indianapolis.

The Jay! Region is one of four finalists — the others are Constellation of Starke (Hamlet, Knox, North Judson and Starke County), Marshall County Crossroads (Argos, Bourbon, Bremen, Culver, Plymouth and Marshall County) and Safe and Welcome (Knightstown, New Castle and Henry County) — for the designation that would open the door to about $38 million in grants and other incentives for local projects.

Jay County Commissioner Chuck Huffman, Jay County Community Development director Ami Huffman and Jay County Development Corporation executive director Travis Richards will lead the presentation. Local elected officials and other community leaders will also be on hand to provide supporting information and answer questions as needed.

“That is our last chance to show them that we are the one,” said Ami Huffman. “That is our last shot at making sure that any doubts or questions in their mind … are put to rest.”

The presentation is the final part of the process that began with a letter of interest in February. The Jay! Region — it includes the county and each of its municipalities — was announced as a finalist in mid-April. From that point on, the region’s Stellar leadership team has been working toward what it hopes will be an exciting announcement on Dec. 5.

The process included public meetings, online surveys and work in various smaller groups to hone the list of potential Stellar projects. Those were presented first in the regional development plan that was due in mid-September and will be highlighted again Thursday.

Ami Huffman will lead off the session with an introduction about the Jay! Region and will also provide information about its mission and vision.

She and Richards will then cover each of the areas of focus for Stellar — housing, connectivity, downtown revitalization, quality of life/tourism, and community and economic well-being — as well as highlight the potential projects and their goals.

Chuck Huffman will take state officials through the process the region undertook to apply for the designation, including planning efforts by Portland, Dunkirk, Redkey and Pennville over the course of the last two years.

The region’s representatives will seek to make clear why this is the right time for Stellar in Jay County.

“I think one of the things that’s important for them to understand is the Jay! Region, though only coined as the Jay! Region recently, has always really worked as a region,” said Richards. “And that’s important, because we’ve got a lot of structure in place to carry out these projects. It’s going to make it pretty seamless. … We’ve already got everything we need in place to really be successful here.”

Jay County has twice had individual communities make it deep into the Stellar process. Portland was one of the 12 communities to receive a visit in the program’s first year in 2011, but did not make it into the top five. Dunkirk was one of three finalists in 2015 only to come up short.

The program was changed last year to focus on regions rather that individual communities, which Chuck Huffman has said makes the opportunity even more attractive.

“I think the really neat thing about it is it would be the whole county,” he said. “This way, everybody’s a winner. … Everybody benefits.”

Thursday’s presentation will also include videos featuring thoughts from a variety of local representatives, from elected officials to business owners to current state FFA president Dillon Muhlenkamp. Another video offers a look at the region’s projects through diagrams, video, drone footage and photos.

The presentation will be an hour long, followed by a half hour for questions from representatives of the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, Indiana Department of Transportation, Indiana Housing and Community Development and other partner agencies.

“Having an hour that means that much to so many people and so many communities and is so transforming is an awesome opportunity and terrifying at the same time,” said Ami Huffman. “But I think we’re ready for the challenge.”
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