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The talent war is a hot topic as places are becoming more competitive in how to attract people. Talent attraction is a critical factor in growing the population of Northwest Indiana. Cumulatively, population growth of Northwest Indiana has been stagnant over the last 20 years with only 3 percent growth, and both Lake and LaPorte counties are projected to lose population over the next 10 years. Sustainable population growth is critical to the prosperity of any place or region. The factors needed to grow population are immigration, domestic migration and births.

Unfortunately, the rate of those moving across state lines has been at a record low. Indiana often touts its lower cost of living as the primary factor in attracting people to move from Illinois to Indiana, and no doubt that has been helpful. In 2015, Indiana gained nearly 20,000 residents from Illinois, whereas Illinois gained about 14,000 residents from Indiana.

Many places and companies are asking how to attract talent. Factors that encourage talent attraction range from placemaking to incentives. Municipalities in Northwest Indiana have incentive programs, such as East Chicago’s Homebuyer Down Payment Assistance program, which provides a forgivable interest-free second mortgage of $25,000 to assist with the down payment for a newly constructed home and $10,000 for an existing home, and the rates are higher for city employees. Hammond’s Home Bound program provides $2,500 to first time homebuyers, those who haven’t owned a home over the last 12 months, and $3,500 to police, firefighters and teachers. Additionally, high school graduates in Hammond are eligible for College Bound, which provides up to $10,500 in college tuition.

Michigan City recently followed suit by creating the Promise Scholarship another college tuition program. Both cities looked at other places in the country to determine what would work best for their city. Hammond shared best practices with Michigan City in building out the Promise Scholarship, a true demonstration of regional collaboration.

Places throughout the country that also have incentive programs include:

  • Denver, Colorado, which attracts an average of 12,000 millennials per year over the last five years. Forbes recently rated Colorado as the No. 1 state for labor supply, or talent. Colorado offers dozens of homeownership assistance programs. For example, the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority covers 4 percent of the first mortgage.
  • Baltimore, Maryland, where the population rose by 32 percent from 2000 to 2012 and has faced issues similar to those our region encounters. The city offers Buying Into Baltimore, which provides $5,000 to first-time homebuyers. The city also offers a Vacants to Value Program where homebuyers who purchase abandoned buildings receive $10,000.
  • Kansas, which offers $15,000 in student loan repayments and waives income tax for five years if a homebuyer settles into one of the 77 designated rural areas.

As One Region strives to attract and retain talent in Northwest Indiana, having programs like those in East Chicago, Hammond and Michigan City lends a helpful hand in attracting people to move to the Region.

Leah Konrady is president and CEO of One Region. The opinions are the writer's.

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Porter County Government Reporter

Senior reporter Doug Ross, an award-winning writer, has been covering Northwest Indiana for more than 35 years, including more than a quarter of a century at The Times.