A new study from Ball State University’s Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) reveals the important economic impact of Indiana’s Regional Cities Initiative (RCI).

The report, which is available on the CBER website, highlights the program’s success in fostering significant private and public investment across the state, spurring nearly $1.6 billion in economic activity.

Launched in 2015, the RCI aimed to enhance the quality of life, stimulate economic growth, and attract talent to various regions within Indiana. The latest findings from CBER confirm the initiative’s effectiveness in meeting these goals.

“This analysis implies that well-targeted, place-based programs with substantial input from local communities can positively influence the economic outcomes of a region,” said Dr. Dagney Faulk, CBER director of research, who co-authored the study with CBER director Dr. Michael Hicks.

The study highlights several successful projects across the state, showcasing how regional collaboration and strategic investments are driving economic growth. In Northeast Indiana, for example, investments in infrastructure and urban development have revitalized downtown areas and bolstered local economies.

Researchers examined economic and demographic outcomes in the North Central, Northeast, and Southwest regions compared to other parts of the state that did not receive Regional Cities funding. Regions receiving Regional Cities Funding experienced higher GDP growth and employment growth.

“Funding provided through the Regional Cities Initiative likely accelerated some existing projects and provided key funding for projects not yet started,” said Dr. Hicks, the George and Frances Ball Distinguished Professor of Economics at Ball State’s Miller College of Business. “This study is rare in evaluations of place-based programs because it included a treatment and control group of counties to be evaluated. The results can be interpreted as causal.”

Other key takeaways from the study include:

  • Economic growth: The RCI regions experienced boosts in GDP, population, and employment, with an estimated average of 1,088 additional jobs and $37 million in GDP per year.
  • Quality of life enhancements: Through funded projects like recreational facilities, housing developments, and expanded broadband access, regions became more appealing, enhancing overall quality of life.
  • Community collaboration: The initiative fostered collaboration among local entities, facilitating sustainable regional planning and development, thereby strengthening community bonds.
  • Program impact: Well-targeted, place-based programs with substantial local involvement have proven instrumental in driving substantial economic outcomes, as evidenced by the initiative's success.
  • Economic activity: The RCI has generated nearly $1.6 billion in economic activity, with approximately 8,000 new residents expected to move to RCI counties due to the initiative.
  • Leveraged investments: Indiana's investment of $122 million has been significantly augmented by private sector contributions, with private investments comprising the majority of the total funding .
  • Regional developments: Notable developments, such as the Ash Skyline Tower in Fort Wayne and riverfront revitalizations, have transformed specific regions like North Central, Northeast, and Southwest Indiana, showcasing the initiative's impact.

Since its inception in 1970, Ball State’s Center for Business and Economic Research has been a trusted source for high-quality, nonpartisan, data-focused research, analysis, and visualization.

For more information, visit the CBER website, call 765-285-5926, or email cber@bsu.edu.