The idea behind the Indiana Stellar Communities Designation Program began in the early to mid-2000’s as the Indiana Lieutenant Governor’s Office decided to focus more resources on Indiana’s rural areas, making them a priority. Internally, Indiana state officials and administrators were looking to address two main questions:
How might it be able to build relationships within the state government structure?
How might it be able to build relationships that not only help state government but by extension Indiana rural communities?
Through establishing and cultivating long-term relationships between state agencies, the state of Indiana has tried to answer these overarching questions and move Indiana into action. The initial program entailed three participating state agencies: the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA), the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA), and the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT). Representatives from the three state agencies met regularly beginning in April of 2010 to begin designing the Stellar Communities concept including the program design process and timeframes. By the end of the summer, the Stellar Communities program was included in the agencies Consolidated Plan.
In late September 2010, under the direction of the Indiana Lieutenant Governor’s Office, the state launched the Indiana Stellar Communities Designation Program (SCDP). The SCDP is a multi-agency partnership designed to fund comprehensive community development projects in Indiana’s smaller rural communities. The goal of SCDP is to take a broader, more holistic view of community planning and development strategies. Stemming from community improvement ideals rooted in emphasizing collaboration among public agencies and community partners, as opposed to separate, piecemeal, incremental improvements, the Indiana Stellar Communities Designation Program sought to pull state resources together to make wide-ranging quality-of-life impacts. According to Indiana’s Lieutenant Governor’s Office (2013), “The Stellar Communities program embodies collaborative government partnerships and successfully leverages state and federal funding from multiple agencies to undertake large-scale projects. Through this program, Indiana is doing more with current resources and making a bigger impact in communities, even with a slimmer budget.”
Beginning in 2015, seven other state agencies partnered with IHCDA, INDOT and OCRA as part of the Indiana Stellar Communities Designation Program. Each agency provides expertise and technical assistance to community partners and finalists.
Through cross-collaboration of state-funded programs in rural development, housing, and transportation, the Indiana Stellar Communities Designation Program objective is to enable communities to aggressively make local and regional impacts throughout rural Indiana. The program pools funding sources from the three primary state agencies, including the State Revolving Fund, to assist designated communities in achieving long-term comprehensive strategic goals for targeted areas.