George Gemelas: Why move back to Indy? A young worker’s take.

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Ten years ago, when I turned 18, I was one of those young people who wanted to get out of Indiana and experience life elsewhere. I never thought that, seven years later, after trying out East Coast living, I would decide to move back.

Today, for my first Forefront piece, I want to spell out why all the young people like me who’ve upped and left Indiana (and curious non-Hoosiers) should seriously contemplate moving to the Indy area.

In the summer of 2020, I escaped the East Coast and returned to the Indy area to stay with family for a bit. I had the chance to explore, and I was struck by all the new development, walkable strips and cool spots in downtown Indianapolis, Carmel, Westfield and other suburbs. I began to ponder, “Maybe I could live here one day.” A year later, I moved back.

What I’ve come to believe living here is that Indy is very much on the ascent. It’s filled with opportunity, and fun, and there’s more coming. It has all the amenities of a big city without the headaches. Next-gen industries and innovation hubs are cropping up, and, of course, the affordability is awesome.

Let’s start there, on the simple and fundamental. When it comes to affordability, Indianapolis beats the young professional hot spots of New York, San Francisco or Miami. Median rent in Indianapolis floats at around $1,500 (Chicago’s inches toward $1,900). For buyers, Zillow just projected that Indianapolis will be a top-four housing market in 2024, in large part due to low prices. Indianapolis’ cost of living sits at about 91 cents to the dollar relative to other cities. Think of all that you could do with the savings!

From a recreation standpoint, metropolitan Indy offers all the amenities of a big city. We have a big sports scene—football, basketball, soccer and more—with Indy hosting the NBA All-Star Weekend next month. We have a symphony orchestra, art and history museums, a zoo, a nationally acclaimed Christmas market, an international violin competition and much else. There’s a whole month of fun leading up to the Indianapolis 500 (once a skeptic, I gladly have been converted). There are places to dance—including old-fashioned line dancing—a hearty brewery scene and great eats: James Beard-nominated chefs, cut-above American fare, and joints for the iconic and ever-fun Indiana pork tenderloin sandwich.

From the standpoint of ease, Indy is no-headaches. There’s no Miami-level traffic, nor a rat problem like in New York. Traveling is no-sweat—we’ve had the best airport in North America for 11 years straight. Perhaps it all comes down to that Midwestern easygoing-ness and neighborly attitude that makes daily life much more civil and humane.

What’s on the horizon is exciting. Investment is plunging into pharmaceutical innovation, ag tech and more. Indiana is listed by Forbes as a top state in which to start a business. The Indy startup and venture capital scene is building. Plans are underway for recreational trails across the state.

Certainly, I’d admit Indy isn’t perfect. We could use a clearer “X factor,” for instance. Everyone knows: Austin has spunk, Nashville has music, Indy has … corn and a racetrack? Incubating the thing that would make Indy pop up when Googling “cool American cities” is difficult. But that can quickly change, and frankly there’s so much going on if you just peek under the hood.

If you’re looking for a growing spot and all-around good living for a low cost your friends in New York and L.A. could never dream of, think about Indianapolis.•

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Gemelas is a Mitch Daniels Leadership Foundation fellow. Send comments to ibjedit@ibj.com.


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One thought on “George Gemelas: Why move back to Indy? A young worker’s take.

  1. Having grown up in Indianapolis basically my entire life, I had the same feelings. Get out of Naptown. In 1977, I did. I joined the US Navy and felt like I had finally gotten away from this sleepy backward town. Never to return. Until I realized what I had missed. I returned in 1981 and all the things mentioned in the article are reasons to stay in Indy. I’m sure places like Oklahoma City, Boise, Sacramento and other “towns” all have the same feelings but maybe different reasons.

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