Press Release from Ohio County Tourism

RISING SUN/OHIO COUNTY, IN: Ohio County Tourism, Inc. was recently awarded a $50,000 grant award from the Indiana Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative on behalf of the (READI) program for their Pavilion and Pop-Up Shop Project at the Visitors Center.

Tourisms grant was one of many that were awarded to support Regional Development Plans across 17 regions representing all 92 counties.

The award will go towards adding restrooms to the Pavilion and Pop-up Community Space at the 217 N. High Street Visitors Center. The 1950s former gas station—which had been remodeled over the years for other business ventures—has only one bathroom.

According to Kendal Miller, executive director of Ohio County Tourism, Inc., the READI grant process began in late 2021 with the award notice confirmed in February 2023. A check presentation by the Southeastern Indiana Regional Planning Commission took place on May 25 at the Visitors Center at 217 High Street in Rising Sun.

“The READI grant was a new project statewide. It was–and still is–a learning process for everyone involved,” said Miller.

Tourism’s participation in the grant came by way of an out-of-the-blue email blast inviting local Ohio County entities to take part in a Zoom meeting in regards to submitting for grants. According to Miller, she was not familiar with READI beforehand but thought it would be a worth checking into.

“I was the only person on the Zoom. I admitted to the meeting facilitator that I was there to learn more and to see if Ohio County Tourism would be eligible to participate,” said Miller.

Not all entities are qualified for every grant that becomes available through State & Federal programs.

After talking with READI consultants about the expansion of the Visitors Center pavilion and pop-up shops to create a community space, Ohio County Tourism was encouraged to fill out a READI Project Pre-Submission Supplemental Information Form.

Under the close supervision and direction of Ohio County Tourism Inc. Board President, Jim McDaniel, tourism had begun its Pavilion & Pop-up Project expansion project in early 2021. Already accomplishing the goal of creative placemaking and creating public spaces listed in the criteria of the READI grant program, tourism was urged to apply.

Miller submitted what had already been completed on the Pavilion & Pop-up Project and tourism’s wish list of what they wanted to accomplish in the future. Upcoming plans for the project included several undertakings, but were shortlisted to additional restrooms and blacktopping the area behind the Visitors Center.

“We were so fortunate to have had the support of the Ohio County Community Foundation and the Indiana Arts Commission for grant awards to help fund what we had completed so far. We were paying as we went,” explained Miller.

A current grant from the Rising Sun Regional Foundation will be added to READI funds for the restroom addition.

It was several before an official announcement from Southeast READI had selected Ohio County Tourism’s Pavilion & Pop-Up Project as one that would be considered for funding should the Southeast region be awarded READI grant funds.

While the first round $15 million dollars awarded to the Southeast READI division was less than what was requested, grant funds had to be divided to submitted projects across all six counties—Dearborn, Franklin, Ohio, Ripley, Switzerland & Union.

With Economic Development representatives from all counties but Ohio working with the grant distribution process, Tourism was at the mercy of Southeast READI organization to see if they would receive any of the awarded grant monies.

Knowing that tourism was at a disadvantage—now and for potential future grant rounds if made available—businessman and tourism Board President Jim McDaniel, was asked by then-County Commissioner Tom Baxter to become Ohio County’s representative and a voting board member for Southeast READI.

After many months of meetings for McDaniel, and submitting updated information on the Pavilion & Pop-up Project since the initial grant application, Ohio County Tourism received the news in February 2023 that the project was approved for funding by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.

“It’s been a great learning process, and we’re so thankful for the opportunity and support of everyone involved,” said Miller.

Photo info L-R: Jim McDaniel, Ohio County Tourism, Inc. Board President and Kendal Miller, Ohio County Tourism, Executive Director, accept a READI award for Ohio County Tourism’s Pavilion & Pop-Up Project at the Visitors Center on Thursday, May 25, 2023. Photo provided.