Gubernatorial candidate Eric Doden touts plan to revitalize rural Indiana

NOW: Gubernatorial candidate Eric Doden touts plan to revitalize rural Indiana

As Eric Doden toured Indiana's 92 counties during his campaign for governor, he's made it a point to visit the Hoosier State's "forgotten communities".

"Forgotten" is how he describes the small, rural cities and towns facing declining population and aging infrastructure.

Doden, a Fort Wayne businessman, has made revitalizing rural downtowns a signature issue of his campaign in the Republican primary.

His "Indiana Main Streets Initiative" calls for $100 million of Indiana's $1 billion annual economic development spending to be dedicated to rebuilding small towns. Doden's proposal would see communities with populations of 30,000 or less apply for a portion of that $100 million to fund 30% of a project focused on revitalizing a "core asset".

"You have to have the bold vision for your community. But then the state has to be a partner to you to implement your vision," Doden said. "We have a housing crisis in our small towns, so this begins to solve a housing crisis. Also allows for population growth, with kids and grandkids returning home, which ultimately allows a community to grow and have community pride."

Doden also believes his plan would help address a controversial piece of legislation signed into law this year.

HB 1383 stripped environmental protections for large amounts of Indiana's wetlands to ease regulations for developers. Critics have called it a "recipe for flooding".

Doden believes his Mains Streets Initiative would attract investment to city centers, so there wouldn't be such a demand to build on undeveloped rural land.

"We've talked a lot with farmers and with people who are like, 'how do we save our farmland?' Well, one of the things you do is go back in, restore these communities and begin to inhabit these [downtown] buildings again and use them rather than building more buildings in farm fields and suburbs," Doden said. "So I think there's a win-win here for us to be good stewards of what we have with farm land, our farm economy, as well as being good stewards of our communities."

Doden is running against U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, former Indiana Secretary of Commerce Brad Chambers, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, and former Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill. As well as Indianapolis mother Jamie Reitenour.

The only Democratic candidate that will appear on the primary ballot is former State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick.

The Indiana primary is May 7. The voter registration deadline is April 8.

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