Decatur is hoping to spur $39 million in public and private investment by using art and education to inspire economic growth and job creation.
The city has been chosen as one of six state finalists competing to participate in Indiana’s Stellar Communities Program. The state program provides two awarded communities a year with the opportunity to align federal funding administered by the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, Indiana Department of Transportation, and Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority with local public and private investment in a targeted area of the community.
The city is proposing $21 million in state and local match investment over the next four years through the Stellar Communities program, with the total investment in Decatur’s downtown expected to top $39 million.
Decatur’s plan – based on the community’s history of artistry and innovation – combines regional education and the arts and will be propelled through arts advocacy, leadership and career skills development and entrepreneurial support.
“Artists see something and make it real for everyone,” City Attorney Tim Baker said. “If we can transform that to the business setting, that creativity will in turn lead to business innovation and job creation.”
“We are changing,” Mayor John Schultz said. “We are engaging more of the younger generation, and and we are encouraging them to come up with ideas that will provide vitality to our community.”
The Creative Engagement Center will develop citizens who think critically, act responsibly, and lead proactively, said Cameron Collier, a city councilman and member of the Greater Decatur Planning Committee.
The center’s goals would be accomplished through art advocacy, job skill and leadership development, and entrepreneurial support and training, Collier said.
The Creative Engagement concept has piqued the interest for a potential programming partnership with several regional entities including Arts Place in Portland and Arts United, Leadership Fort Wayne, the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center and the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne.
Schultz predicts the initiative will cause a ripple effect where additional growth and development occur.
“The people energy around the Stellar application has generated a groundswell of support for change and growth in our community,” he said. “Change in progress was spurred by the success of our Sculpture Tour and has escalated to include nearly every sector in Decatur.”
Decatur will find out next month if it is a Stellar Program award winner, when the state is expected to announce the winning communities.