Hundreds of remote workers have relocated their families to Indiana through the MakeMyMove incentive program — and even more are expected to transplant to the state in the next five years. (Photo from the U.S. Census Bureau website)
Museum passes, concert tickets, coworking spaces and thousands of dollars in cash are enticing hundreds of families to relocate to Indiana — and even more are expected to make the move as a growing incentive program continues to expand.
More than three dozen Hoosier communities have tapped into new funding pools created to help them recruit out-of-state remote workers to Indiana.
Since the pandemic created millions of remote corporate workers, various municipalities around the state have been trying to lure them — along with their high pay and families — to relocate.
Already, some 337 “knowledge workers,” who are educated and earn higher incomes, have planted new roots in Indiana, said Evan Hock, co-founder of Indianapolis-based MakeMyMove, an online directory that connects remote workers with such offers around the country.
The company gets paid through individual contracts with cities and towns. For instance, one community’s contract says they will pay MakeMyMove $75,000 over about a year for services; as well as a $1,000 commission for each person who relocates.
“If you put yourself in the shoes of these remote workers, they’re moving for very personal reasons. Maybe they want something more affordable or closer to amenities that they like. Maybe that’s in a college town, but it’s also the smaller towns, like in Henry County and Dubois County, where they’re really starting to see some traction. The incentives are very diverse,” Hock said. “It’s really an opportunity for these communities to kind of differentiate themselves and not just offer cash, but find ways to sort of plug people into the community.”
How it works
Programs offered through MakeMyMove are primarily targeted toward remote workers and often require applicants to be from out-of-state. Interested movers must apply through the online platform before potentially being selected to call a new Hoosier city home.
To be eligible for recruitment offers on MakeMyMove, most programs require potential movers to earn salaries of $50,000 or more, be willing to relocate and remain in their new community for at least a year.
The incentives vary by community. All involve some form of cash as part of the package, but many include other unique, local offerings.
That includes southern Indiana’s Daviess County, which will give residents $5,000 to move within the rural community. Also included is an annual state parks pass, a checking account with a $250 bonus, and access to a behind the scenes tour of the Patoka Lake Winery, a free visit to the Wilstem Ranch Drive-Through Safari and tickets to attend dinner and a musical show at local Abbeydell Hall.
Kosciusko County, in northern Indiana, is additionally luring new movers with $5,000 cash — or similar amount toward a mortgage rate reduction — along with a Grace College Athletics Pass, VIP seats to summer concerts, a local ice rink pass and access to discounted coworking spaces.
Bloomington and West Lafayette, both college towns, are also offering university resources such as co-working spaces and networking opportunities to draw new talent. Hock said the Bloomington program additionally offers transplants board seats at local not for profits.
“One of the most common things we hear from our movers is that they want to get connected to the local community, and that’s a great way for them to sort of make that connection,” he said. Hock pointed to the incentive program in Noblesville, too, which provides a one-year membership to the city’s chamber of commerce.
“It’s a great way to get you networking groups, and really helps people start to forge those connections, plant some roots as soon as they show up. And it becomes a retention activity. How can you help people feel connected to the community so that they stick around long-term?”
The company has launched similar programs in nearly 150 other communities outside of Indiana, many which are smaller or rural, that offer comparable relocation incentives.
Most who have moved to Indiana appear to be staying here, Hock said. More than 80% of movers stick around for at least a year.
“We haven’t seen much evidence that people are kind of hopping around,” he continued. “These are people who are moving to find that new home.”
MakeMyMove requires participating municipalities to have some sort of local sponsor, such as the mayor’s office or a local economic development organization. The Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) then provides “some backstop and political support — to sort of show that the state is behind this,” Hock said.
In April 2022, Indiana lawmakers greenlit Senate Enrolled Act 361 that allows city leaders to secure funding for talent attraction and retention activities through local tax increment financing dollars.
The IEDC provided $1.5 million in matching funds for Indiana mayors and economic development corporations to use to bolster their talent recruitment and retention initiatives. Given the program’s popularity, the IEDC then added another $1 million to the matching fund element.
The Indiana University Public Policy Institute’s Remote Worker Impact Model — commissioned by MakeMyMove — estimates that for every $100,000 of income that relocated remote workers bring, it results in $83,000 each year in incremental economic impact.
“It’s really valuable, and that value is immediate,” Hock said, emphasizing that the average MakeMyMove participant makes about $108,000 a year. “These are high-wage people, highly-educated folks. And by bringing their job with them, they bring all of their economic impact.”
Spain to Monticello
Among Indiana’s newest residents is Michael Harris, who recently returned to the United States after living in Spain for two decades teaching yoga. He was teaching in Sri Lanka but living in Spain when he decided he wanted a fresh start for himself and his mother, Marilyn.
He found numerous options on MakeMyMove, but said it wasn’t the incentives that convinced him to move to Monticello, in White County.
“Cathy, the mayor there, gave me a contact who helped get my mom’s Medicare benefits and medical care sorted out,” said Harris in a news release. He offers students across the U.S. online classes of yoga, meditation and TRX crossfit. “I thought, ‘Wow. That was really nice of her.’ She’s been super helpful with a lot of other things, too. It was a great introduction to the community.”
Harris received $7,500 in cash and $3,200 in other amenities as part of the incentive package offered to relocators through White County Economic Development. The cash helped with his move, Harris said, but there were other communities offering more.
“It really wasn’t all about the money for us,” he said. “Monticello has everything we wanted: a beautiful location, four actual seasons, quick access to big city culture in Chicago or Indianapolis, nearby medical care and opportunities to grow my business.”
MakeMyMove officials said more than 1,300 people have inquired about moving to White County through their platform. A total of 39 offers have been extended, and the community is hoping to attract a total of seven new households.
More to come
Other communities across the state are aiming to get more new residents, too. New incentives and broader eligibility requirements are intended to help.
A growing MakeMyMove program in southern Indiana, for example, is specifically targeting CDL truck drivers.
“There are too few truck drivers in the United States, overall, and (in southern Indiana) they’re starting to attract truck drivers from all over to move there,” Hock said. “That’s not remote work, but those are people that can bring their skills with them. It’s pretty portable.”
MakeMyMove additionally announced this month its plans to expand the recruitment pool to include incentives for other in-demand professionals like teachers, police and nurses.
Hock said he expects applications to pile up quickly as the word gets out and communities see the additional opportunity.
In the next three to five years, he said the company hopes to increase the number of MakeMyMove participants in Indiana to 1,000 to 2,000 per year. Part of that effort will include expansion into more heavily-populated Central Indiana communities — like Indianapolis, Columbus, South Bend and Fort Wayne.
“There are close to 30 million fully remote workers just in the U.S. alone. The opportunity to recruit people to the state, at-large scale is there,” he said. “Those who have moved here so far — it’s just the very beginning.”
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