New OCRA Program Targets Rural Communities

The executive director of the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs says the recently-launched Hoosier Enduring Legacy Program is designed to help rural communities deal with the financial impact of the pandemic. Denny Spinner says when funding from the American Rescue Plan Act was announced, OCRA sent out a survey to communities asking how the agency could help. “It came back very clear that they needed some guidance; they needed somebody to step alongside them and really connect the funds that are coming to these communities and connect that to projects and priorities that would help them leverage that dollar as much as they possibly can,” Spinner said.

Spinner discussed HELP and the state of rural Indiana in an interview on Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick.

“This is an opportunity of legacy proportions for cities, towns and counties to make decisions about funding that we hope is once in a lifetime to connect things that can really change your community,” he said.

The year-long program is being implemented with help from the Center for Regional Development at Purdue University, the Indiana University Center for Rural Engagement, the Indiana Communities Institute at Ball State University, and Ivy Tech Community College.

“They all know these communities so well and being able to bring those resources to rural Indiana and have them focused on really our needs in rural Indiana right now, I think, is an offering that is really exciting for all of us,” said Spinner.

Spinner, a former mayor of Huntingburg, says the four focus areas of HELP highlight the needs in rural Indiana. Those areas include advancing e-connectivity, promoting community wellness, improving quality of place, and strengthening local economies.

“How do we connect rural Indiana to make it the place that people can live, do work, and prosper? [With] community wellness, we’re facing challenges in wellness right now in our rural Indiana communities that have never been faced before because of the separation and the distancing that happened during COVID. So, what is community wellness? That’s more than just a walking trail; it’s that health that you have to have. And you’ve got to have quality of place to really make Indiana thrive and grow.”

You can learn more about HELP by clicking here.