Planning Takes Shape For $30M OIRI Funding

June 24, 2024 at 6:22 p.m.
Pictured (clockwise, starting at left, L to R) are Indiana District 22 state Rep. Craig Snow, KEDCO CEO Peggy Friday, Warsaw Community and Economic Development Director Jeremy Skinner, Kosciusko County Community Foundation CEO Stephanie Overbey, K21 Health Foundation CEO Rich Haddad, KEDCO Leadership Partner Suzie Light and OrthoWorx CEO Bob Vitoux. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union
Pictured (clockwise, starting at left, L to R) are Indiana District 22 state Rep. Craig Snow, KEDCO CEO Peggy Friday, Warsaw Community and Economic Development Director Jeremy Skinner, Kosciusko County Community Foundation CEO Stephanie Overbey, K21 Health Foundation CEO Rich Haddad, KEDCO Leadership Partner Suzie Light and OrthoWorx CEO Bob Vitoux. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union

By DAVID L. SLONE Managing Editor

The OrthoWorx Vision Committee has developed a roadmap for the $30 million appropriated from the state for the Orthopedic Industry Retention Initiative (OIRI).
It proposes supporting 11 projects in Kosciusko County - workforce housing, community amenities, city-county parking structure, orthopedic innovation research center, innovation development district, fairground relocation and redevelopment, Winona Avenue project, community experiences program, business innovation center, community fieldhouse and Gordon Health Center. While some of them could be completed within a few years, others are more long-term.
The $30 million was transferred to OrthoWorx to support efforts to attract talent and to retain and expand the orthopedic device industry in Indiana, according to information on the initiative.
Monday morning, the committee met with local media to discuss how they see the funds being allocated to support the various projects.
Background
District 22 state Rep. Craig Snow explained that a little over four years ago, he met with Gov. Eric Holcomb on Holcomb’s request to talk about Regional Development Authorities (RDA) and Regional City money the state gave - $42 million to three regions in the state - back when Mike Pence was governor. RDA boards were set up to manage those funds and Snow was on a board.
In that conversation with Holcomb, Snow told him it was a great opportunity for the regions (Northeast, Northwest and Southwest) that received the money.
“For Northeast Indiana, we turned $42 million into - at the time - $264 million of private investments,” Snow said, adding that he thought it was a worthwhile thing to do.
Holcomb then showed Snow a huge map of the state with 10 circles on it, with every circle having a 50 in it. “That’s really what started READI (Regional Economic Acceleration & Development Initiative). So, $50 million for 10 different regions in the state, and his plan was to take that and invest it just like they did with the Regional Cities money, but go the entire state. No county was left out,” Snow recalled.
Snow jumped on that idea, telling Holcomb about the Warsaw/Kosciusko County area and the orthopedic industry. At the time, there were rumblings that certain companies could leave the county, so that was a concern. Snow told Holcomb about the concern about the potential of that happening, and Snow wanted to help the county avoid that, if possible.
“So, I said, ‘Why don’t we plan on making investments in Kosciusko County for the sake of the orthopedic industry?’ And the whole point of that was to build out our blighted areas, build out quality-of-life-type projects, solely for the purpose of attracting and retaining talent for the orthopedic industry,” Snow said.
He suggested the state provide $250 million to invest in the area. Holcomb didn’t say no, but he did ask Snow how he would spend the money. Snow rattled off a few projects based on discussions various boards he served on had. At the end of a long conversation, Holcomb told Snow to call Brad Chambers, then Indiana’s secretary of commerce, and tell him what he told Holcomb, and they could get something going.
Snow had conversations with Chambers, state Sen. Ryan Mishler and others. During the 2023 budget session, $30 million - to be overseen by OrthoWorx - was granted for the OIRI.
The OrthoWorx Board of Directors commissioned the Vision Committee, which includes Snow, OrthoWorx CEO Bob Vitoux, Kosciusko Economic Development Corporation (KEDCO) CEO Peggy Friday, KEDCO Leadership Partner Suzie Light, K21 Health Foundation CEO Rich Haddad, Warsaw Community and Economic Development Director Jeremy Skinner, Kosciusko County Community Foundation CEO Stephanie Overbey, Warsaw Mayor Jeff Grose, County Commissioner Cary Groninger, Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce President Rob Parker and Winona Lake Town Council President Jim Lancaster, who also represents Zimmer Biomet, the county’s largest employer.
The OrthoWorx-appointed Vision Committee has been meeting since last summer, but the work has been going since before Oct. 21, Light said. Snow said that while there’s 11 people on the committee, other groups in the community have been involved in meetings, including 4-H, the fair board, Warsaw Community Schools, Grace College, the YMCA, Kosciusko Connect and others.
Vitoux presented the committee’s vision to the state budget committee several weeks ago for the $30 million. It was approved and appropriated, and on July 1 they will be able to make requests for funding. All the money will not be available all at once.
Projects
To get OIRI funding, requests are made based on the projects that are ready to go. The first three they are looking at are the three Warsaw housing projects - Gatke, Millworks (old Owen’s) and North Buffalo Street.
“Trying to get those three projects up and going so we can get them completed as quickly as we can to show some quick wins, and the community needs it. Those already had funding mechanisms from the private sector, the city just had a gap that they basically had to cover in order to get things started. So we thought we’d put a little fuel to that tank to get it going,” Snow said.
The topic after those will be centered around parking.
Light said, “KEDCO commissioned a parking study, and it was funded by our partners. The Parking Whisperer conducted the study. They were here doing on-site parking space counts and who was parked where and they did a survey. They said our community responded better than any community when we were surveyed, and the results clearly indicate we need to do something different than what we’re currently doing.”
The city and the county have had multiple meetings centered around parking, Snow said. As a result, he said a parking structure of some sort - maybe a parking garage - hopefully will go up.
“The next step for us is to get before the county and the city as part of their budgeting process and go to their meetings and basically request them to think about putting some money in the budget for this project or that,” Snow stated. If the city and county provides funding, money from OIRI also could be used toward a parking structure. “This is not free money. We’re not just going to give it to anyone. So in this case, the city and the county would need to come up with the gap, if you will, to finish out a project, in this case a parking garage.”
A project also near happening is the community amenities. Skinner has gone around to all the towns in the county and asked them if they have projects that they would like to see get across the finish line that they don’t have some or all of the funding for, Snow said.
“That would be a bucket of money that we would put together, kind of its own READI program, if you will, and say, ‘If you’ve got a project, come to us, fill out this form,’ it’ll go into a rubric-type of process of some sort and we will help figure out how to get money to match their needs. Again, it’s not free money,” he said.
Vitoux said, “The broad-based concept that Craig has worked so hard for ... was to bring exposure to our community, that the orthopedic industry has been here for 130 years. We don’t desire to see any of that leave, we only desire for it to expand. And so, what the state, I think, heard is, there’s a need for continuing to advance our community. So we think through talent-attraction efforts, amenities and experiences are key.”
He said the group has worked really hard to try to not only think about orthopedics but broadly across the county to include the agricultural industry, other manufacturers and natural resources to leverage the opportunity to attract talent into the community, as well as retain the businesses that are already here.
Haddad said, “I think the reality of the impetus of this funding, retaining and growing the orthopedic industry, is the impact, it’s for every industry in our community. Because if this helps the orthopedic industry, it’s going to help the retail industry, it’s going to help the banking industry, it’s going to help the ag industry.”
“It’s going to help the community, period,” Light stated.
“The focus is, because of being the orthopedic capital of the world, that’s the focus of why the state understands the importance of this investment. But we, as community leaders, see it as the entire community being invested,” Haddad said. “So that’s where some of these other projects - helping the future of some of these ideas that really just don’t have any traction or any way to kind of get them started - there’s concepts here to help really start some of those progressive, growing our community better solutions and ideas than we have today. Those are all there to just make our community even more attractive, more thrive in ways than right now need a little help to do.”
Winona Avenue is one of the most important corridors between Warsaw and Winona Lake. “The Winona Avenue project is a concept of taking that important corridor ... and really improving it and beautifying it and accelerating great retail along that corridor that needs a little help to bring that up to the level that we think both Warsaw and Winona Lake need. So that’s a great example,” Haddad said.
Asked about an overall timeline and phasing of the projects, Snow said the committee kind of had categories of projects that could be completed in 1 to 3 years, 3-5, 5-7 and such, with the housing projects being in that first category.
Vitoux said their roadmap is still a work in progress.
“It’s direction framework, clarity of priority. The community amenities program is just, how do we set that up logistically? That could happen pretty quickly. Who’s going to manage that? What’s the process for communities to not only plan their need but then bring that need to this funding program and processing that. So I think that’s a little bit of administrative logistics to figure out,” Haddad said.
Snow stated, “When I think about going to the state budget agency and requesting money, the first projects will be the three housing projects, the parking structure and the community amenities project. So those will be the first three requests we’ll probably make because the money could start to be spent on those pretty quickly, whether it’s engineering studies or project management or whatever.”
He said there’s a lot of stuff they have to plan and set up yet.
Money And Buy-In
If the first $30 million for OIRI is spent well, would the state provide more funding?
“There’s always that possibility, yes. There’s always that hope,” Snow said.
“But we have to execute well to get there,” Light stated.
“And that’s part of the reason why I wanted to see some quick wins early on, so that I could report back, ‘Hey, here’s some of the money you gave us, here’s what it created in private investment dollars,’” Snow said. “Again, they’re going to look at this like any business case: What’s the return on the investment? And so, as long as we can show that our community is ripe for growth, and we’ve got the county, the city, foundational, KEDCO, Chamber; we’ve got people that want to work together to get this thing going, the way I look at this, the rising tide rises all boats. So I think with all the excitement and energy behind us, we can have a great story to tell back at the state budget committee and say, ‘Hey, your investment is worthwhile here, let’s do it again.’”
Vitoux said they will have some early wins, but hopefully those early wins will beget more wins as the momentum gets going.
To get community buy-in of the work, he said as they’re all out telling the story, “It’s up to us to capture the imagination of our community. Let’s, again, go back and think about what we’re trying to attract is this next generation. The next generation is often attracted by what they read and what they see on social media, or in media as a whole. When we have a story to tell, that, again, we think is captivating, that’s what we want to be out there doing.”
Haddad said there’s several project areas that will require a lot of time and community buy-in but also understanding and participation.
“So the idea of developing a new industrial district, that’s years in the making and studies and those sort of things. Or the idea of the fairground relocation and redevelopment, that’s going to take a lot of planning effort and engagement with the community for that to be a win for everybody,” Haddad said.
There’s examples in the roadmap of how it’s all a long process, but Haddad said, “This kind of sets the course towards a lot of that hard work that has to come along and engage the community. You can’t please everybody and never will, but the community seeing the vision and getting enthusiastic and excited about being a part of it, I think, is part of the hard work that lies ahead.”

The OrthoWorx Vision Committee has developed a roadmap for the $30 million appropriated from the state for the Orthopedic Industry Retention Initiative (OIRI).
It proposes supporting 11 projects in Kosciusko County - workforce housing, community amenities, city-county parking structure, orthopedic innovation research center, innovation development district, fairground relocation and redevelopment, Winona Avenue project, community experiences program, business innovation center, community fieldhouse and Gordon Health Center. While some of them could be completed within a few years, others are more long-term.
The $30 million was transferred to OrthoWorx to support efforts to attract talent and to retain and expand the orthopedic device industry in Indiana, according to information on the initiative.
Monday morning, the committee met with local media to discuss how they see the funds being allocated to support the various projects.
Background
District 22 state Rep. Craig Snow explained that a little over four years ago, he met with Gov. Eric Holcomb on Holcomb’s request to talk about Regional Development Authorities (RDA) and Regional City money the state gave - $42 million to three regions in the state - back when Mike Pence was governor. RDA boards were set up to manage those funds and Snow was on a board.
In that conversation with Holcomb, Snow told him it was a great opportunity for the regions (Northeast, Northwest and Southwest) that received the money.
“For Northeast Indiana, we turned $42 million into - at the time - $264 million of private investments,” Snow said, adding that he thought it was a worthwhile thing to do.
Holcomb then showed Snow a huge map of the state with 10 circles on it, with every circle having a 50 in it. “That’s really what started READI (Regional Economic Acceleration & Development Initiative). So, $50 million for 10 different regions in the state, and his plan was to take that and invest it just like they did with the Regional Cities money, but go the entire state. No county was left out,” Snow recalled.
Snow jumped on that idea, telling Holcomb about the Warsaw/Kosciusko County area and the orthopedic industry. At the time, there were rumblings that certain companies could leave the county, so that was a concern. Snow told Holcomb about the concern about the potential of that happening, and Snow wanted to help the county avoid that, if possible.
“So, I said, ‘Why don’t we plan on making investments in Kosciusko County for the sake of the orthopedic industry?’ And the whole point of that was to build out our blighted areas, build out quality-of-life-type projects, solely for the purpose of attracting and retaining talent for the orthopedic industry,” Snow said.
He suggested the state provide $250 million to invest in the area. Holcomb didn’t say no, but he did ask Snow how he would spend the money. Snow rattled off a few projects based on discussions various boards he served on had. At the end of a long conversation, Holcomb told Snow to call Brad Chambers, then Indiana’s secretary of commerce, and tell him what he told Holcomb, and they could get something going.
Snow had conversations with Chambers, state Sen. Ryan Mishler and others. During the 2023 budget session, $30 million - to be overseen by OrthoWorx - was granted for the OIRI.
The OrthoWorx Board of Directors commissioned the Vision Committee, which includes Snow, OrthoWorx CEO Bob Vitoux, Kosciusko Economic Development Corporation (KEDCO) CEO Peggy Friday, KEDCO Leadership Partner Suzie Light, K21 Health Foundation CEO Rich Haddad, Warsaw Community and Economic Development Director Jeremy Skinner, Kosciusko County Community Foundation CEO Stephanie Overbey, Warsaw Mayor Jeff Grose, County Commissioner Cary Groninger, Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce President Rob Parker and Winona Lake Town Council President Jim Lancaster, who also represents Zimmer Biomet, the county’s largest employer.
The OrthoWorx-appointed Vision Committee has been meeting since last summer, but the work has been going since before Oct. 21, Light said. Snow said that while there’s 11 people on the committee, other groups in the community have been involved in meetings, including 4-H, the fair board, Warsaw Community Schools, Grace College, the YMCA, Kosciusko Connect and others.
Vitoux presented the committee’s vision to the state budget committee several weeks ago for the $30 million. It was approved and appropriated, and on July 1 they will be able to make requests for funding. All the money will not be available all at once.
Projects
To get OIRI funding, requests are made based on the projects that are ready to go. The first three they are looking at are the three Warsaw housing projects - Gatke, Millworks (old Owen’s) and North Buffalo Street.
“Trying to get those three projects up and going so we can get them completed as quickly as we can to show some quick wins, and the community needs it. Those already had funding mechanisms from the private sector, the city just had a gap that they basically had to cover in order to get things started. So we thought we’d put a little fuel to that tank to get it going,” Snow said.
The topic after those will be centered around parking.
Light said, “KEDCO commissioned a parking study, and it was funded by our partners. The Parking Whisperer conducted the study. They were here doing on-site parking space counts and who was parked where and they did a survey. They said our community responded better than any community when we were surveyed, and the results clearly indicate we need to do something different than what we’re currently doing.”
The city and the county have had multiple meetings centered around parking, Snow said. As a result, he said a parking structure of some sort - maybe a parking garage - hopefully will go up.
“The next step for us is to get before the county and the city as part of their budgeting process and go to their meetings and basically request them to think about putting some money in the budget for this project or that,” Snow stated. If the city and county provides funding, money from OIRI also could be used toward a parking structure. “This is not free money. We’re not just going to give it to anyone. So in this case, the city and the county would need to come up with the gap, if you will, to finish out a project, in this case a parking garage.”
A project also near happening is the community amenities. Skinner has gone around to all the towns in the county and asked them if they have projects that they would like to see get across the finish line that they don’t have some or all of the funding for, Snow said.
“That would be a bucket of money that we would put together, kind of its own READI program, if you will, and say, ‘If you’ve got a project, come to us, fill out this form,’ it’ll go into a rubric-type of process of some sort and we will help figure out how to get money to match their needs. Again, it’s not free money,” he said.
Vitoux said, “The broad-based concept that Craig has worked so hard for ... was to bring exposure to our community, that the orthopedic industry has been here for 130 years. We don’t desire to see any of that leave, we only desire for it to expand. And so, what the state, I think, heard is, there’s a need for continuing to advance our community. So we think through talent-attraction efforts, amenities and experiences are key.”
He said the group has worked really hard to try to not only think about orthopedics but broadly across the county to include the agricultural industry, other manufacturers and natural resources to leverage the opportunity to attract talent into the community, as well as retain the businesses that are already here.
Haddad said, “I think the reality of the impetus of this funding, retaining and growing the orthopedic industry, is the impact, it’s for every industry in our community. Because if this helps the orthopedic industry, it’s going to help the retail industry, it’s going to help the banking industry, it’s going to help the ag industry.”
“It’s going to help the community, period,” Light stated.
“The focus is, because of being the orthopedic capital of the world, that’s the focus of why the state understands the importance of this investment. But we, as community leaders, see it as the entire community being invested,” Haddad said. “So that’s where some of these other projects - helping the future of some of these ideas that really just don’t have any traction or any way to kind of get them started - there’s concepts here to help really start some of those progressive, growing our community better solutions and ideas than we have today. Those are all there to just make our community even more attractive, more thrive in ways than right now need a little help to do.”
Winona Avenue is one of the most important corridors between Warsaw and Winona Lake. “The Winona Avenue project is a concept of taking that important corridor ... and really improving it and beautifying it and accelerating great retail along that corridor that needs a little help to bring that up to the level that we think both Warsaw and Winona Lake need. So that’s a great example,” Haddad said.
Asked about an overall timeline and phasing of the projects, Snow said the committee kind of had categories of projects that could be completed in 1 to 3 years, 3-5, 5-7 and such, with the housing projects being in that first category.
Vitoux said their roadmap is still a work in progress.
“It’s direction framework, clarity of priority. The community amenities program is just, how do we set that up logistically? That could happen pretty quickly. Who’s going to manage that? What’s the process for communities to not only plan their need but then bring that need to this funding program and processing that. So I think that’s a little bit of administrative logistics to figure out,” Haddad said.
Snow stated, “When I think about going to the state budget agency and requesting money, the first projects will be the three housing projects, the parking structure and the community amenities project. So those will be the first three requests we’ll probably make because the money could start to be spent on those pretty quickly, whether it’s engineering studies or project management or whatever.”
He said there’s a lot of stuff they have to plan and set up yet.
Money And Buy-In
If the first $30 million for OIRI is spent well, would the state provide more funding?
“There’s always that possibility, yes. There’s always that hope,” Snow said.
“But we have to execute well to get there,” Light stated.
“And that’s part of the reason why I wanted to see some quick wins early on, so that I could report back, ‘Hey, here’s some of the money you gave us, here’s what it created in private investment dollars,’” Snow said. “Again, they’re going to look at this like any business case: What’s the return on the investment? And so, as long as we can show that our community is ripe for growth, and we’ve got the county, the city, foundational, KEDCO, Chamber; we’ve got people that want to work together to get this thing going, the way I look at this, the rising tide rises all boats. So I think with all the excitement and energy behind us, we can have a great story to tell back at the state budget committee and say, ‘Hey, your investment is worthwhile here, let’s do it again.’”
Vitoux said they will have some early wins, but hopefully those early wins will beget more wins as the momentum gets going.
To get community buy-in of the work, he said as they’re all out telling the story, “It’s up to us to capture the imagination of our community. Let’s, again, go back and think about what we’re trying to attract is this next generation. The next generation is often attracted by what they read and what they see on social media, or in media as a whole. When we have a story to tell, that, again, we think is captivating, that’s what we want to be out there doing.”
Haddad said there’s several project areas that will require a lot of time and community buy-in but also understanding and participation.
“So the idea of developing a new industrial district, that’s years in the making and studies and those sort of things. Or the idea of the fairground relocation and redevelopment, that’s going to take a lot of planning effort and engagement with the community for that to be a win for everybody,” Haddad said.
There’s examples in the roadmap of how it’s all a long process, but Haddad said, “This kind of sets the course towards a lot of that hard work that has to come along and engage the community. You can’t please everybody and never will, but the community seeing the vision and getting enthusiastic and excited about being a part of it, I think, is part of the hard work that lies ahead.”

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