Evansville Recruits Remote Workers Through Facilitating Local Connections

By Natalia Wolting  • May 20, 2024

When the Wall Street Journal ranked Evansville, Indiana as one of the top 3 cities for remote workers, Abby Elpers, Director of Marketing for Evansville Regional Economic Partnership (E-REP), knew that it was due in part to the area's culture of inclusivity and belonging. Solidifying its reputation as a place where people from all walks of life can feel at home. “We’ve got a lot of representation and diversity here that you wouldn’t expect in the Midwest,” says Ashley Riester, President of River City Pride.

E-REP represents a four-county region in Southwest Indiana. While looking for new ways to stimulate population growth in the area, E-REP connected with MakeMyMove. "We knew remote work was a growing trend and we saw a chance to attract new residents and boost our economy partnering with MakeMyMove,” says Abby Elpers, Director of Marketing for E-REP.

A Partnership for Everyone

In partnering with MakeMyMove, E-REP was able to amplify the community motto, e is for everyone, through its authentic voice to attract remote workers seeking an affordable lifestyle. “What made the program enticing is that we weren't asking people to move here for a specific job. They already had a secure job as a remote worker and they just had to choose Evansville as the community that wanted to relocate to. So, that put pressure on us and how we would sell our community. It was a risk, of course, but a risk we were willing and happy to take,” says Elpers.

The risk has paid off handsomely as remote workers nationwide have embraced Evansville for its realness and uniqueness. Many like mover Joseph, who traded his busy life in New York City for a backyard full of bunnies. “Utilizing the MakeMyMove program has been a fish-in-a-barrel tactic for increasing the area’s population growth and bringing people to our community that are excited and want to get involved,” Elpers says.

Personalized Engagement Facilitates Deeper Local Connections

While the financial incentives and application process are streamlined through MakeMyMove's platform, the program's success is rooted in E-REP's personalized efforts to attract interested remote workers to the community by analyzing applicants' backgrounds and preferences and tailoring responses to showcase Evansville's offerings relevant to each individual.

“We focus on creating a personalized approach so they feel that one-on-one connection and are comfortable asking us questions," says Elpers. “If they contact us and have questions about housing or if we see on their application that they have children, I’ll be sure to include that information in my response, so they know I’ve personally read their application and care about what matters most to them in finding the right community. I respond to applicants who have lived in the area before with a “welcome back” instead of “welcome to Evansville” - little things like that can make a big difference.”

Abby Elpers, Director of Marketing for Evansville Regional Economic Partnership

Riester agrees and says that they take a similar approach, “I've reached out to several applicants who were interested in the LGBTQ community here and sent them relevant information including the date of our annual Pride Festival. I think that's a big selling point for them because you don't think of Indiana and queerness in the same sentence typically but we're everywhere and that gets them excited to feel a sense of belonging here.” Riester also says that personal touch is executed in their mover boxes. “We give each mover a box with their name on it which contains items such as an event calendar, newcomers guide to the region and local merchandise.”

Understanding Remote Movers' Motivations

Contrary to initial expectations Elpers says that she was surprised that the majority of movers had no prior connection to the area. “We thought that we would have more people with a previous tie to our region interested in moving back here but it turns out that two-thirds of them didn't. Some returned home to be near family or aging parents but a lot of them had never even heard of Evansville and were willing to move across the country from states like Texas, Illinois, California, Utah and New York. We actually have a map of all the areas movers have come from and it's fascinating because the dots are just everywhere.”

Instead, she says they were drawn by factors such as affordability and the desire for a change of scenery. “A slower pace of life is a common reason we hear along with affordability. Some people are excited about being able to experience all four seasons or want something new. One mover from Florida was excited that her dogs got to see the snow for the first time.”

Another motivating factor for some movers has beenEvansville's identity as a community of acceptance. One of the ways Evansville showcases its diversity is through its "e is for everyone"campaign which promotes inclusivity in the local community.

Evansville has moved households from 13 different states.

Movers Giving Back

According to Elpers and Riester, several movers have helped promote the community through word of mouth. One mover and his wife who relocated from Illinois not only bought a home sight unseen based on the community's appeal but they're actively recruiting their friends and family to move there. As Elpers joked, " I'm like 'Jeff, thank you for doing our job for us.'" Additionally, his wife found a job in the community and in doing so - is supporting the local workforce.

Another mover surprised everyone by securing several grants for Evansville. “Logan was one of our first movers and he's a bit of a celebrity around here. He has gotten several grants from the U.S. Department of Energy and it’s generated a significant amount of money for us. He also recently partnered with the University of Evansville’s Center for Innovation and Change to support the work of his non-profit, Circular Venture Lab. The funds will be used to create the Evansville Energy Nucleus, which will highlight resources for manufacturers considering a move to the region. We weren't expecting that level of impact," Elpers admitted. "It showed us the potential these newcomers bring."

Results and Future Prospects

Evansville positioning itself as an inclusive and welcoming destination for individuals seeking a new place to call home along with its partnership with MakeMyMove has proved successful in attracting remote movers to the area. To qualify for the program, movers can move anywhere in Vanderburgh County. Since the program started it has:

  • Moved 30 new households and 64 people to Evansville.

  • Experienced 171,702 Unique Page Views to content about Evansville on MakeMyMove.com.

  • Attracted remote workers with job titles like Software Engineer, Remote Learning Lead, Executive Director and Remote Nurse to the region.

  • Brought an average household size of 2.1 and an average household income of $127K to the community.

  • Provided Evansville $3.5 million in new annual economic output.

Economic impact generated by IMPLAN

Elpers says that without E-REP’s relationship with the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) and the funding they received from the Eli Lily Foundation along with their partnership with MakeMyMove, none of this would have been possible. “Our program has been successful, and our numbers look great on paper but when we can impress our Board of Directors and local leaders start to hear and understand the value in the program, that’s when it all comes together.” Abby and Ashley both mentioned their gratitude for the support received from the Mover Guides. “They are excellent at answering our questions or addressing any concerns we have, and it’s impressive that they never confuse our movers or program with anyone else’s. We appreciate them being so on top of things all the time.”

When it comes to the future, Elpers feels confident that movers will continue to flock to the Evansville area. “One of the movers who relocated from a large metropolitan area said that he thinks Evansville is up and coming and that we're here on the ground floor of something really special and how excited he was to see the growth that's coming, especially with our revitalized riverfront, and all the changes planned for the community in the next several years. It’s encouraging to hear people who have lived in other vibrant communities come here and decide this is where they want to belong.”

At MakeMyMove, we help communities grow by recruiting new residents. To get your community started, contact us here.