My thoughts on Stellar
Sunday, March 31, 2013 10:00 PM
March was a very hectic month in city hall, thus my article is appearing a little later than normal.
We saw much activity on many different fronts. Of course, the event capturing the most attention early in the month was the submission of our proposal for the 2013 Stellar Communities Pilot Program. We worked very hard for almost a year to prepare a very competitive proposal. Our proposal was centered on the use of public-private-partnerships, or P3's, and was unrivaled in size and scope by any Stellar Community to date or that proposed by any of the six 2013 finalists. We developed a plan to couple public and private funding in a fashion that would have resulted in a $75 million development impact within our community.
I feel strongly that the true strength of a program such as this should be found within its ability to foster private investment. The resulting private investment in our case would have easily topped the $50 million mark with much of that already firmly committed.
However, as you are aware, we were not chosen as a finalist. The announcement came as a considerable disappointment and it has taken a little time to sort through.
So, why wasn't such a strong proposal chosen?
That is the obvious question and we have been working very hard to answer it. Despite any official feedback from the state agencies involved in the selection process a few facts have begun to emerge since the announcement. The most obvious facts can be found within the numbers themselves. The amount of money the State of Indiana has, or is willing to invest in the Stellar Communities program appears to have decreased significantly.
We worked very hard to keep the amount of funding we requested proportionate to previous Stellar Community awards. Unfortunately, upon analyzing the proposals of the current finalists it is very clear that the evaluation team chose much smaller proposals.
It is fair to say each of the proposals chosen as finalists this year were approximately half the size of former winners. Clearly the state has chosen to pursue two significantly smaller Stellar Community proposals this year. Perhaps we could call it "two for the price of one" or "Mini Stellar Community Awards."
The true hallmark or the Stellar Communities Program, and the premise on which it was built, was its ability to bring multiple agencies from state government together in a cooperative, focused effort to transform a community. Unfortunately, it is apparent to this outside observer that the confusion and repositioning of agencies and leaders within state government following the change in administrations has taken a toll on the cooperative, focused effort on which the program was built.
The confusion within the program this year is apparent and can clearly be seen in the contradictory statements made by the participating agencies. These contradictions have occurred in both the written directives and the presentations made at Stellar Community presentations.
Perhaps this is a temporary growing pain and it will subside once everyone finds their role in the new Pence Administration. I hope that is the case, the future of the Stellar Program is dependent upon it.
In addition, we must wonder if our proposal possessed too much strength with much of the $50 million in private investment already committed. Those evaluating the proposal could have easily concluded that our projects could be completed without Stellar Community designation. It would be an easy conclusion to draw. We didn't simply come to the table and ask the state for a handout to lift our community up and move it forward. We created a solid plan and had already begun putting much of it in place by securing a great deal of private investment. This reflects the true spirit of our community.
We will no longer sit idly by and watch ourselves fall behind. We are ready and willing to take the lead, roll up our sleeves and make it happen on our own.
I believe that I need to be very clear.
While I think each of these factors played a role in our not being chosen, ultimately this experience and the conclusions we draw only serve to help strengthen us. I don't like excuses and don't intend to offer any. Ultimately, we missed the mark on this attempt but we are much stronger as a result. We have developed a clear vision and a plan that will make Crawfordsville uniquely strong.
We are currently in the process of making a few revisions and will be rolling the plan out in the near future. In the meantime, we are continuing to work aggressively to make each of our projects and the resulting comprehensive transformation of our community a reality.
We have a great community with all the ingredients for success. Our resolve has never been stronger and I am confident we will all pull together to make great things happen.