Local business experts say Monroe County jobs numbers took “big hit” from pandemic, but vaccinations could give economy a shot in the arm

At their regular meeting on Tuesday, Monroe County councilors got a briefing from local economic experts on their outlook for the coming year.

The presentation came from Carol Rogers, who’s co-director of the Indiana Business Research Center at IUPUI, and Jennifer Pearl, who’s president of the Bloomington Economic Development Corporation.

The current jobs growth and unemployment news is bad in Monroe County, as it is in the rest of the state.

Rogers told county councilors the local labor force numbers have slipped. The labor force figure of 69,205 in December 2020 is down 2.5 percent compared to December 2019, she said.

Out of that labor force of 69,205, in late 2020, 2,315 people were unemployed in Monroe County. That made for a 3.3-percent unemployment rate. It’s 25 percent higher than last year, Rogers said. “We’re in one of the highest unemployment scenarios that we’ve been in the county since the Great Recession,” Rogers said.

One statistic that Rogers said she’ll be tracking as a possible driver of economic recovery is the rate of COVID-19 vaccinations.

Rogers said, “As more and more people become vaccinated, as the spread [of COVID-19] is reduced and hopefully potentially eliminated, [we hope] we’ll see [weekly unemployment] claims get down to the hundreds instead of well over 1,000.”

“The ability for [Indiana University] to constrain the virus spreading among the student population is going to have an effect on that.” Rogers said. Continue reading “Local business experts say Monroe County jobs numbers took “big hit” from pandemic, but vaccinations could give economy a shot in the arm”

Lower grant award from feds sends Bloomington back to drawing board for tech center

In December 2020, Bloomington’s economic and sustainability department heard from the federal Economic Development Administration (EDA) that it would likely be receiving a $3.53 million grant to support the construction of a technology center in the Trades District.

The city has been collaborating with the Bloomington Economic Development Corporation on the technology center, which would be built at Maker Way and Madison Street, north of city hall in downtown Bloomington.

But the likely grant award, which was described to the city in a “merits further consideration” letter from the EDA letter dated Dec. 18, fell $2.3 million short of the $5.83 million the city had requested in its grant application submitted in the fall.

That means the city will now be asking the architect on the project, Axis Architecture + Interiors, to redesign a smaller building, to lower the project cost.

To get authorization for the $29,970 in extra architect fees, Bloomington’s director of economic and sustainable development, Alex Crowley appeared before the city’s redevelopment commission (RDC) on Tuesday. The five-member commission unanimously approved the revised project totals.

The proposed technology center is in the RDC’s bailiwick for a couple of reasons. The RDC is contributing $2 million to the project, which will cover the local match for the federal money, through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

If the EDA is satisfied that the city’s resubmitted, downscaled proposal can still achieve the goals of the technology center, it means that the city will be receiving $3.53 million in federal money to go along with its own $2 million investment. Continue reading “Lower grant award from feds sends Bloomington back to drawing board for tech center”

Technology center application to feds for $9.4 million building gets more OKs from RDC, city council committee endorsement comes after grumbling

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A view from the west of Bloomington’s Trades District. The April 2020 image is from the Monroe County online GIS system.

On Monday night, Bloomington city council’s four-member sustainable development committee convened a meeting to consider signing a letter of support for an application by the city to the federal Economic Development Administration (EDA). The city looking to build a technology center in the Trades District, just north of city hall.

A couple of committee members balked at being asked to vote on the question, because they’d received the supporting written materials just three hours earlier. So the letter of support from the committee had to wait for approval until Tuesday afternoon when the committee resumed its recessed meeting from Monday, missing one of its members.

The Tuesday afternoon meeting lasted just six minutes, which included a reading of the letter aloud into the record. One missing instance of the word “of” was noted and corrected before the letter was approved.

The application had received an initial OK in early August from the city’s redevelopment commission (RDC).  The RDC is involved because it owns the land, and the project requires expenditure of about $2 million in tax increment finance (TIF) funds, money that the RDC oversees.

A couple hours before the city council’s committee met on Monday, the RDC amplified the application’s green light, given six weeks ago, with some additional endorsements. The five voting RDC members unanimously endorsed a feasibility study, a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS, pronounced /sεdz/), the funding match, and use of the land.

The RDC owns the real estate and would continue to own it, along with the building, after it is constructed. According to representatives of Axis Architecture + Interiors the construction could be completed, possibly by the end of 2022.

If the EDA were to approve the application, the $2 million in local funds would get a 20-80 federal match to pay for the construction of roughly $9.4-million, 3-story, 31,375 square foot building at Maker Way and Madison Street, north of city hall in downtown Bloomington. The estimated dollar figure includes architectural and engineering design fees, permits, inspections and connection fees.

The federal funds would be available through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Continue reading “Technology center application to feds for $9.4 million building gets more OKs from RDC, city council committee endorsement comes after grumbling”

Bloomington hopes to put $2M of local money into $10M “tech accelerator” if feds will make up the difference

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A view from the west of Bloomington’s Trades District. The April 2020 image is from the Monroe County online GIS system.

Bloomington is applying to the federal government for an 80-20 matching grant that would pay for a $10 million “tech accelerator” to be constructed in the Trades District area of downtown Bloomington.

According to Jennifer Pearl, president of the Bloomington Economic Development Corporation, the tech accelerator would “make programming and services available to tech companies in our region, to help them grow and commercialize.”

The physical location in the Trades District would make it a “technology hub,” Pearl said.

Startups and mature tech companies alike would be candidates for using the tech accelerator’s services, Pearl said.

Bloomington’s 20 percent share of the project would be $2 million, drawn from revenue to the city’s consolidated TIF (tax increment finance) district. That’s why the proposal appeared on the Bloomington redevelopment commission’s Monday night agenda. The RDC administers the city’s TIF funds.

The RDC did not approve any expenditures of funds on Monday. They just gave a green light for the grant application to be made. Continue reading “Bloomington hopes to put $2M of local money into $10M “tech accelerator” if feds will make up the difference”