CUMBERLAND, Ind. – Three towns, linked by a two-lane road, hope they'll soon be the recipient of a highly sought-after grant. The towns of McCordsville, New Palestine and Cumberland have joined up in hopes of winning $14 million in the Indiana Stellar Communities program.
The state's Stellar program is a multi-agency partnership designed to recognize smaller Hoosier communities and help them achieve comprehensive and collaborative plans to boost their economic development. It began in 2011 with two winning individual communities receiving the grant.
That's been how the program worked ever since, until 2018.
Leaders decided to switch the program to a regional competition, requiring at least two communities to team up.
Before this year, the three western Hancock County towns, working collectively as the Mt. Comfort Gateway Corridor, had never tried to win a Stellar grant individually. As a region, they felt they had a better chance.
"When they announced that Stellar was going to be regional, it really was ideal for us," said April Fisher, the town manager at Cumberland.
Mt. Comfort Gateway Corridor is one of five finalists up for the two $14 million grants. They'll get announced on Monday, December 10.
County Road 600 West in Hancock County runs through all three communities. It's also known as Mt. Comfort Road.
Each community would use the money on several projects, with a few larger projects sticking out.
In McCordsville, the intersection at Mt. Comfort Road and County Road 600 North would be converted into a roundabout to counter the town's expected growth.
"It's the next logical improvement," said McCordsville director of planning and building, Ryan Crum.
Cumberland would build a large multi-use facility at the trail head of Buck Creek Trail. It would hold 60 units of workforce housing and a few commercial spaces, including a business incubator to help new companies get on their feet.
New Palestine wants to spend a portion of its funds on the facade of the historic Mary M. Nichols building, which currently houses a museum.
The Mt. Comfort Corridor team isn't the only one from Hancock County. A team, going by the name of Health and Heritage, is made up of Greenfield, Hancock County and the Town of Fortville.
The Stellar program requires each region to show it can get matching funds for the grant.