The crowded Corydon Town Hall went from near silence to an eruption of cheers Thursday morning just minutes after 10 when Indiana Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb called town council president Eva Bates North with the news that the first state capital had been selected as the Stellar designee for Division 2 (population of 5,999 or less).
While everyone else clapped and hugged and shook hands with one another, North retreated to her office and closed the door in order to hear the rest of Holcomb’s phone conversation. She listened intently and occasionally smiled. After ending the phone call, she did her own arms-in-the-air Olympic pose, then hugged and kissed her fianc’, Richard Bube, before returning to the roomful of people who had helped during the Stellar Communities Designation Program application process.
North’s brother, Brian Bates, had said he and his family always knew Corydon was stellar; now the rest of the state would know it, too.
Throughout the day, congratulatory messages poured in, including one from overseas.
‘What a great piece of news heard halfway around the world,’ wrote Sean Davis, pastor of One Church in Corydon, a member of the local Stellar committee, who was traveling with his wife, Penni. ‘I’m celebrating with y’all from Scotland.’
Those at the town hall celebrated by eating ice cream cakes from Dairy Queen.
The Stellar program, launched in 2011, is a multi-agency partnership designed to recognize the state’s smaller communities that have identified comprehensive community and economic development projects and activities as well as next steps and key partnerships.
Last year, the program went from one designee to two, based on population size. Division I communities have populations of 6,000 or more.
Three finalists in both divisions were announced in April after the state committee culled through 10 letters of interest.
Corydon was selected over Culver and Union City, while, Rushville was named the Division I designee over Shelbyville and Warsaw.
As part of the process once the finalists were selected, between April and July, Holcomb and representatives from the SCDP state team visited all six finalist communities where they heard highlights from each local team and toured project sites from the communities’ local Strategic Investment Plans.
‘I was filled with such pride while visiting the six finalist communities this summer, seeing firsthand the passion and dedication each team is putting towards bettering their community through economic development opportunities,’ Holcomb said in a press release after all six finalists were contacted Thursday morning.
‘I look forward to celebrating the work of the state and local teams at the state fair next week. With or without the stellar designation, all six communities are on their way to achieving transformative outcomes that will better their local and regional areas.’
The official public announcement will be made tomorrow (Thursday) at 10:30 a.m. at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis. A busload of people are planning to make the trip. While there, key planners of the Corydon Stellar committee will give their presentation and meet with state officials, while others will have an opportunity to take in some of the sights at the fair, including the bison-tennial display that includes Corydon artist Sheryl Scharf’s ‘George Harrison’ fiberglass bison.
In the fall, the lieutenant governor and state Stellar team members will travel to Corydon and Rushville to participate in local Stellarbrations with the local community members.
The Stellarbration also will take a look back on the successes of the first five years of the designation program. Past recipients are North Vernon and Greencastle (2011), Princeton and Delphi (2012), Richmond and Bedford (2013), Huntingburg and Wabash (2014) and Crawfordsville and North Liberty (2015).
Corydon’s SIP centers around renovating, improving, enhancing and rehabilitating existing aspects of the town. Proposed are the renovation of three historic buildings, enhancements to the downtown area to improve connectivity and walkability by providing lit walkways and housing rehabilitation. Another project will transform the old Keller Manufacturing Co. property at the north edge of downtown into office space, an event center, parking garage, amphitheater and green space.
A detailed look at Corydon’s Stellar project can be found online at www.corydondemocrat.com; click on the feature section titled ‘A Stellar Guide.’
State agency partners for the Stellar program are the Indiana Dept. of Transportation, Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources, Indiana Finance Authority, Indiana Office of Small Business and Entrepreneurship/Indiana Economic Development Corp., Indiana Office of Tourism Development, Indiana State Dept. of Health ‘ Division of Nutrition & Physical Activity, Serve Indiana, Indiana Arts Commission and the Indiana Bond Bank.
Corydon expects to receive approximately $34 million over four years for its projects as a Stellar designee with some funding coming from multiple existing federal programs.
Catherine Turcotte, who worked closely with North through the application process, said, ‘It is going to be a very exciting four years.’
Both Corydon and Rushville have proposed projects involving public and private dollars; although they have been designated as a Stellar Community, the projects are proposals and no specific funds are guaranteed. Both communities will meet with representatives from the state Stellar team in coming weeks to discuss details of the proposed projects, including feasibility, available funding, time frames and partner participation. They also will receive follow up from the state team to discuss details about their submitted SIPs and provide feedback about the SCDP process.
More information about the Stellar Communities Designation Program can be found online at http://in.gov/ocra/stellar.htm.