HAMMOND — Two presentations at Thursday's meeting of the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority left its top executive convinced the SSCVA, the Toll Road and the Move to Indiana campaign could partner to market Indiana to Illinois residents.
A review of the Move to Indiana campaign by executives of The Times Media Co. and Amplified Digital was followed at the meeting by an update of the Indiana Toll Road Concession Co.'s recent and planned investments in the Toll Road.
"We're very excited about partnering with the Toll Road on major Toll Road-wide initiatives," SSCVA President and CEO Speros Batistatos said after the meeting. "They're really our next big natural partnership."
The Move to Indiana campaign, a marketing effort with the slogan "The Grass is Greener on the Other Side," has 10 backers, including The Times and the SSCVA. During the past year, it's engaged in campaigns in a dozen southern suburbs of Chicago, targeting residents it identifies as most likely to consider moving.
The campaign has identified 10 reasons for Illinois residents to make the move, said Times and Amplified Ad Director John Gregorio. They include lower taxes, good schools, a quicker commute and other quality-of-life benefits.
Move to Indiana's targeted messages on websites, mobile apps and Facebook have drawn as many as four times the average "click through" rates — the percentage of viewers who click on the campaign's ad to visit its website.
"This was an audience that was extremely targeted, and the metrics show it," Gregorio said.
Times Publisher Chris White said the goal is to expand the campaign to other suburbs in the future. "Their taxes are just as high and their commutes are even longer," he said.
Indiana Toll Road Concession Co. CEO Nic Barr followed that presentation with details of the $220 million in road and bridge improvements completed since the company took over the lease of the 157-mile road in 2015. ITRCC also is investing $70 million in roadside travel plazas, and plans further road improvements, including infrastructure developments near the state line, in coming construction seasons.
Barr said ITRCC is making efforts to re-engage with communities across northern Indiana after "significant under-investment" by the Toll Road's previous operator, which went bankrupt. He also said the company has begun investigating a rebranding effort.
"I think we're just scratching the surface of what we can do with the relationship," Barr said of the Toll Road, SSCVA and campaigns like Move to Indiana.
"Successful tourism and economic development of the corridor is always going to be helpful for our organization, and vice versa," he said. "We bring in traffic, it's good for you; you bring in tourists, it's good for us."