CINCINNATI — When Charles Edwards got the opportunity to retire early, he could have moved to the beautiful South Carolina coast, where he lived as a boy, or the North Carolina Piedmont region, where he spent his high school years.
But he chose to remain in Indiana, where he moved begrudgingly with his family just before he started college.
“To go from a coastal area or the Piedmont of the Carolinas to Indiana was quite a shock, and I was not pleased. It was a very difficult transition for me,” said Edwards, now 71 and a resident of Bedford in Lawrence County. “But Indiana – it’s just such a wonderful place to live, and I’m just so thankful to be here.”
The campaign is the work of the Indiana Destination Development Corp., or IDDC. Indiana lawmakers formed the IDDC in 2019 to promote Indiana as a great place to visit, live, learn and work, and the organization’s work became even more timely during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Indiana Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch.
“COVID has changed everything in our lives. And while we all yearn to go back to normal, it’s going to be a new normal. And more people are going to be working from home, you know. We’re going to have more hybrid learning situations, and telehealth is going to become more and more prevalent,” said Crouch. “So, with that being the case, knowing that people are going to be able to work from home, how do we sell Indiana to people that might be interested in getting more bang for their buck.”
The IDDC did focus groups with people living on the East and West coasts to figure out what they knew about Indiana and what kind of information they would need to hear about the state to consider living there, said Elaine Bedel, the organization’s secretary and CEO. The people who participated in those groups said that hearing from people like themselves – who had moved to Indiana and had chosen to stay there – would be key, Bedel said.
The IDDC already had heard from Indiana residents about how much they loved the state and created the Hoosiers by Choice campaign to share those sentiments more broadly, Bedel said. The Indiana Association of Realtors sponsors the campaign.
“It just seemed like the perfect opportunity to give a voice and to amplify those stories and get them out and beyond our borders,” Bedel said. “That’s why the timing was so good.”
‘I fell in love with the state’
Indiana already is known across the country for its business-friendly environment, Crouch said, but the state’s quality of life is less well known.
“Many of our young people, before they choose the job, they choose the place they want to live,” Bedel said. “So we’ve got to get that message out about the quality of life. And, to be quite honest, it’s just easier to live here than it is in a lot of other places.”
Indiana offers the opportunity to live on a farm, live in a suburb or live in a Downtown urban area and still get to work in 20 minutes, she said, and the state’s affordability makes it easier to buy a house.
“For a lot of people on the East and West Coast, that’s one of the things they really love – the fact that they can buy a home where they were renting an apartment there – a small apartment,” Bedel said.
Edwards became convinced years ago as a student at Indiana University and a graduate student at Butler University.
“My entire family migrated back to the Carolinas, including my mom and dad,” he said. “Everybody’s back down South, and I’m the only one up here. I fell in love with the state. I fell in love with the universities I attended.”
He still loves to visit the South Carolina coast each year, he said, but also loves returning home to the 25-acre homestead in southern Indiana where he and his wife live.
“The rolling hills of southern Indiana are beautiful,” he said. “I just feel so good about being back home and sitting out here on my front porch and watching some, you know, buggy drive by that belongs to an Amish family. I mean, it’s a different world. But it’s just become what I want to be and where I want to be.”
More information about the Hoosiers by Choice campaign is available online. If you live in Indiana and moved there from someplace else, you can share your story on the Hoosiers by Choice website, too.
Lucy May writes about the people, places and issues that define our region – to celebrate what makes the Tri-State great and shine a spotlight on issues we need to address. To reach Lucy, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.