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Indiana town offers free babysitting by stand-in ‘grandparents’ to lure remote workers

A rural Indiana town looking to attract more remote workers has offered free babysitting services from stand-in “grandparents” as an incentive to get families to move there, the Associated Press reported. Within two weeks of launching the initiative, more than 1,000 applications were submitted from people looking to move to Greensburg and take advantage of “Grandparents on Demand.”

Tami and Dan Wenning, a local couple in the town located about 50 miles from Indianapolis, volunteered to step in as grandparents for the first five families that agreed to move to Greensburg. Tami Wenning said that other grandparents in Greensburg “are more than ready” to join the initiative as well if enough families are interested, the AP reported.

MakeMyMove, an Indianapolis-based online directory that informs remote workers of unique opportunities like the one in Greensburg, tracked the influx of applications for the “Grandparents on Demand.” Evan Hock, co-founder of the directory, said that the program acted as a “big contributor” to the vast interest, and officials are now weighing whether to expand the initiative, according to the AP.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

A rural Indiana town looking to attract more remote workers has offered free babysitting services from stand-in “grandparents” as an incentive to get families to move there. Tami Wenning poses outside a home in Greensburg, Ind., on Oct. 22, 2021.
Casey Smith/Report for America via AP

Tami Wenning, 57, volunteered for the incentive program through her work as director of the Decatur County Community Foundation and said she and her husband “absolutely love” serving as grandparents to their own kids already. They’ve also offered their home to more than a dozen foreign exchange students in recent years.

“I’ve lived here my whole life, and I’m excited to share with the people who want what we have, because what we have is special,” she said. “We’re the perfect place for somebody to raise a family, and I cannot begin to imagine moving away and being in a place where you don’t have that network of people that, in a pinch, you’ve got somebody to rely on.”

The five spots in Greensburg are expected to be filled in the next 30 days, Hock said, and new residents will get assistance moving to the city over the next two or three months.

The relocation package also includes $5,000 in cash, invitations to home-cooked meals at neighbors’ homes, a one-year membership to the local co-working space and YMCA, free gift cards to the seasonal farmers market and tickets to productions at the local playhouse.

The remote worker relocation package is designed to recruit new residents to the city amid a growing shift to permanent remote work that was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The campaign is part of a nationwide trend of workers moving to smaller communities with a more affordable cost of living.

Hock said 70 percent of applicants to the Greensburg program are remote workers, and interest is coming “from all over the country,” including Texas, California and New York.

“I think our aspirations just got a lot bigger in the sense of, holy cow, there’s all of these people that want to move. Now, we’re figuring out how we find the folks that really do want to move and want to move in the right reasons,” Hock said. “We want to find people that will help diversify the economy, that have remote jobs that they can bring with them, who plan to stick around in the community, long term.”

Centrally located between Indianapolis and Cincinnati, Greensburg is home to about 13,000 Indiana residents. The downtown square is marked by dozens of storefronts. A tree growing from the Decatur County courthouse clock tower has earned Greensburg the nickname “Tree City.”

“Once they’re here, our goal is to make them feel welcome. We want them to be integrated in the community in a way that makes it feel like they’ve been here a long time,” said Greensburg Mayor Joshua Marsh. “We’re trying to create an instant community for them when they arrive, and to make sure they’re successful here.”

A dozen other communities in Indiana also offer incentive programs to attract “knowledge workers,” who are educated and earn higher incomes, Hock said.

That includes southern Indiana’s Daviess and Greene counties, which will give residents $5,000 to move within the rural communities. Bloomington and West Lafayette, both college towns, are also offering university resources such as co-working spaces and networking opportunities to draw new talent.

MakeMyMove has identified more than 40 other communities outside of Indiana, many which are smaller or rural, that offer similar relocation incentives.

Augusta, Maine; Newton, Iowa; and Morgantown, West Virginia, are offering between $12,000 and $20,000. Rutherford County, Tennessee, home to Middle Tennessee State University, will pay off $10,000 in student loans. In Stillwater, Oklahoma, a monetary incentive is coupled with free coffee for a year and a free month of martial arts classes in exchange for workers to relocate there.

Hock said the pandemic-fueled exodus of remote workers from larger metropolitan areas to places like Greensburg “is a lasting trend,” given that millions of workers have been exposed to a new way of life and the freedoms afforded by working from home.

“This is a new tool that they have that maybe they’ve never had or considered before,” Hock said.

Greensburg Babysitting Program
Located 50 miles southeast of Indianapolis, Greensburg will offer $5,000 to people who relocate there, in addition to providing a free babysitting service for parents as part of a new “Grandparents on Demand” program. Greensburg is seen on on Oct. 22, 2021.
Casey Smith/Report for America via AP

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