As adaptation to the pandemic continues and remote work becomes a permanent feature of business, Indiana has a window of opportunity to reverse past brain drain trends.

 To do so, city and state leaders need to leverage the confluence of three things:

  • The trend of exiting big cities. Up to 23 million Americans are planning to relocate according to an October 2020 Upwork study
  • Alumni connections from state universities
  • Creative incentive structures utilized by other cities and states.

A 2019 study by the Senate Joint Economic Committee ranks Indiana among the worst states at retaining highly educated workers. The study suggests Indiana suffers from a net loss of almost 11% of all highly educated adults.

While many companies remain uncertain if, when, and how they will return to a traditional office environment, a consensus seems to be forming that remote work will continue as an option for many white-collar workers. Increased flexibility of work location coupled with a host of other issues are creating a migration from high density, high cost cities. We want those people to come to (or back to) Indiana.

One way to know people in these cities have ties to Indiana is the through Thanksgiving air travel demand data from 3 Victors Travel. The data suggests people with Hoosier ties are indeed living in high density, high costs cities.

During the week last year there were over 11,000 searches for air travel to Indiana during the Thanksgiving week. The leading cities of origin include New York, Los Angeles, Denver, Boston, Las Vegas and San Francisco. 

Indiana’s pitch is well known to Hoosiers but directly hits the pain points of this migrating workforce:

The cost of living is less.

  • The median home price in Indiana is $156K vs $1.4M in San Francisco. If homeownership does not align with your goals, perhaps the new luxury apartments in downtown Indy or downtown Fort Wayne are a better fit.

Indiana is a great place to raise a family.

  • U.S. News & World Report ranks Indiana sixth in the nation for Pre-K – 12th schools. Indiana is also home to the world largest children’s museum.

Indiana is home to the best airport in North America

  • The Indianapolis International Airport (IND) has earned the top spot from J.D. Power for the second year running, and the third time in the past five years. Even during a pandemic, IND has access to the coasts with daily flights to San Francisco, Seattle, Boston and New York.

TechPoint & TMap will roll out the red carpet for you.

  • Indiana’s leading tech industry group has partnered with a thriving tech start up to recruit tech workers to Indiana in style.

Fishers was name best city in the nation for remote workers.

  • A growing community just north of Indy noted first on Zippia’s list of Best Cities For Remote Workers because of its proximity to Indy, affordable housing and tech infrastructure. San Francisco, New York, Austin and Denver did not make the list.

To go beyond Indiana’s assets, the state could also consider adopting a creative incentive structure that’s led to success in other places. In its first year, the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma received over 10,000 applicants to its program that awarded $2,500 in moving costs, a $500-a-month stipend, and a $1,500 payout at the end of the year to new, eligible Tulsa residents. The program also gave participants access to a coworking space in downtown Tulsa and opportunities for discounted rent. As the pandemic hit, Tulsa has re-upped with a $10,000 incentive for 250 remote workers that move to Tulsa.

Any great product or incentive needs a target audience and it may prove successful to direct a new type of incentive towards those with Hoosier roots. Working alongside state colleges like Purdue University and Indiana University, a campaign targeted at some of the best and brightest alumni that have left the state could catalyze a human capital movement to Indiana. Beyond a short-term financial incentive, engaging participants with civic and not for profit organizations that well align with their interests could be transformative to local communities and individuals.

Seeding the state with an increased pipeline of talent could have long-term, distributed impact. A 2019 study by Diebolt and Hippe suggests that human capital is significantly related to regional economic prosperity. The study also recognizes that human capital formation does not happen overnight but instead builds over time to create positive and long-lasting effects. As Indiana continues to be a state that works for everyone, the pandemic presents a small window of opportunity to fuel Hoosier human capital growth like never-before.

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