A growing number of places in the United States are offering as much as $20,000 to attract newly remote workers to move to their regions, USA Today reported on Monday.
Some of the cities and states making these offers are doing so in an attempt to create a pool of high-skilled workers to fill job openings or to build up a skilled workforce to attract companies, while other major reasons cited are to counter declines in population or to fill up newly built housing complexes.
These attempts are completely reversing the traditional way to advance economic development, where cities would spend hundreds of millions of dollars offering tax breaks and other incentives to attract companies.
But the coronavirus pandemic has altered the connection between where a person lives and works, meaning that smaller communities with lower costs of living, less congestion and, for many, a better quality of life have the ability to also attract remote workers.
These efforts can help bolster the local economy and expand the tax base.
“We’re breaking the cycle,” says Adam Ozimek, chief economist of Upwork, an online freelancing platform. Communities “can appeal directly to people instead of the companies who employ them.”
At least 45 communities nationwide are already offering incentives to attract remote workers, an increase from a couple dozen late last year, according to MakeMyMove.com, a website that aggregates the offers.
Evan Hock, a vice president of TMap, a recruiting firm that runs the website, said that approximately 50 more communities are expected to join the program within a year.
With thousands of people already making the move due to the incentive, program coordinators say they are generating publicity that will create even a greater shift of teleworkers from large metro areas to smaller communities over time.
An Upwork study estimates that 14 million to 23 million American households intend to move, chiefly from major cities to less expensive housing markets.
Hock explained that many of these towns offering the incentives “have lost population not because they’re not good places to live but because people have gone elsewhere to find work.”
Nearly all the initiatives demand that remote workers remain in the area for at least a year or two, with some also requiring new residents to purchase a house.
Hock also pointed out that the economic impact on a community is several times larger than the cost of the incentive.
One example of someone making such a move is Cynthia Rollins, a 43-year-old CEO of a San Francisco-based technology company who was paying $2,600 a month for a 675-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment in that city.
Rollins said she took advantage of incentives offered by Tulsa, Oklahoma, to move there last November, because “I was looking to reduce my cost of living so I can travel more.”
She now pays $1,000 a month less than she did in San Francisco for a 1,000-square foot, two-bedroom apartment in a luxury hi-rise downtown.
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