(Lawrenceburg, Ind.) - A front page article in Sunday’s Indianapolis Star has people in southeast Indiana talking.
The article co-written by Tony Cook and Mary Beth Schneider is about the City of Lawrenceburg’s 10 County Regional Economic Development Grant Program. Each year, the program doles out $10 million to projects promising job creation across the southeast region.
The Star article – found online at http://www.indystar.com/article/20130517/news05/305170076/Millions-casino-cash-spent-where-jobs- – focuses on projects which have received grant money but have not delivered jobs. It names a 2009 grant of $5 million for startup automaker Carbon Motors to begin producing next-generation police vehicles in Connersville. The project fell through in 2012 when a $310 million loan from the U.S. Energy Department was cancelled.
The report also calls into question a handful of grants which are shown to benefit elected officials or their relatives. 305 Ridge LLC, a project tied to Greendale Mayor Doug Hedrick and Greendale City Attorney Richard Butler, received a $400,000 grant in 2010. However, the restaurant they planned – the Dobell House on Ridge Avenue in Greendale – has yet to open. The grant application promised 24 jobs, but almost three years later, none have been created.
Hedrick, Butler, former Lawrenceburg mayoral candidate Tim Denning, and attorney Victor Prasco each own 25 percent of the project, according to the Star article.
State Rep. Jud McMillin (R-Brookville) faces continuing criticism in the article for his handling of a $600,000 grant for Destination Brookville. The project aimed at developing Brookville as a tourist destination and upgrading the Brookville Theater was once headed by McMillin. He divested himself of ownership in Destination Brookville in 2012, leaving his family and business partners to head the organization.
Lawrenceburg City Council initially approved the grant, but later repealed it after learning of McMillin’s involvement with Destination Brookville. McMillin, a voting member of the regional grant committee, did not vote on the grant request, but other members said he did not disclose his family’s involvement.
Two other grant recipients, Windstream Technologies in North Vernon in 2011 and 2012, as well as Global Energy Solutions in Madison in 2012, also receive attention in the Indy Star report.
The article does point to some grant program success stories, such as Lawrenceburg’s $10 million contribution to help lure Honda to Greensburg.
Lawrenceburg City Councilman Mike Lawrence and State Senator Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville) are each quoted throughout the article. They both call for changes to the Lawrenceburg grant program.
The 10 County Regional Grant Program has awarded money to 105 projects since 2006, according to the report.