Reprinted with permission from The Republic newspaper, November 22, 2021

City officials plan to invest leftover monies from an old tech park fund into new projects.

The Columbus Redevelopment Commission has approved a resolution authorizing the use of about $1.18 million from its Certified Technology Park fund for the 1821 Trail and NexusPark projects.

Per the resolution, $1,183,741.75 remains in the Certified Tech Fund. The commission plans to spend $500,000 of this on NexusPark IT infrastructure needs and put the remaining funds — some $680,000 — toward the 1821 Trail.

NexusPark is a joint venture between the city of Columbus and Columbus Regional Health to turn the existing FairOaks Mall into a health, wellness and recreation center.

The 1821 Trail extension, which officials plan to be the seminal project of the Columbus Area Bicentennial, is intended to connect the Haw Creek Trail, which ends at Lafayette Street, to Water Street. Officials also plan to include art, architectural and historical components in the project.

According to the resolution, both projects are “public facilities” and therefore eligible to receive leftover monies from the Certified Tech Fund.

The origin of the fund dates back a decade. Commission attorney Stan Gamso said that in 2011, Cummins came to the city with the idea to build a parking garage. The Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) suggested creating two technology parks — one at the airport and one in downtown Columbus — to help pay for the project.

According to the IEDC, “The Certified Technology Park program was created as a tool to support the attraction and growth of high-technology business in Indiana and promote technology transfer opportunities. Designation as a Certified Tech Park allows for the local recapture of certain state and local tax revenue which can be invested in the development of the park.”

Andrew Lanam with Stifel Financial Corp. explained that a tech park is a bit like a tax increment finance district; however, its revenues come from increases in both payroll and sales and use taxes over the original base.

“A technology park can only fund up to … $5 million worth of bonds,” Gamso said. “So the parking garage is going to be a little more than $10 million, so making a technology park in each side of the garage meant that you got $10 million available.”

Per the commission’s resolution, in 2011 city council authorized issuance of “Indiana Economic Development Certified Technology Park Revenue Bonds, Series 2011A” for the Cummins, Inc. downtown parking garage project. The bonds were fully paid within a few years.

Lanam said that the leftover amount is the $10 million minus the principal and and interest on the bonds, with the remainder combined with the debt service reserve fund (which was not used).

“There was a couple of places in the bond documents that say specifically that if there are any proceeds leftover from the bond, that they’re to be paid as follows: They’re to be paid to any outstanding monies that are due over the construction project, which there are none, or to the reserve bond fund, if there was one — in this case there was not — and then lastly, paid to the redevelopment commission,” Gamso said.

The resolution states that while the city’s agreement with the IEDC did not stipulate how to use remaining funds, it did state that monies from the Certified Tech Fund must be used by the commission only for a number of specified purposes pertaining to creation or improvement of public facilities.

When commissioner Don Trapp asked if there’s been any discussion with Cummins, Inc about the remaining funds, Gamso said that they have not reached out to Cummins because “the bonds have been paid.”