Attracting Remote Workers

The past decade has seen talent supply shoot to the top of priority lists for companies making location decisions. In the ensuing competition for highly-skilled workers, economic developers have begun showcasing their regions’ livability as the centerpiece to their marketing efforts, pushing low costs of living, outdoor recreation, great schools and craft breweries in an effort to bolster their region’s talent profile.

More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many workers around the country out of the office and back into their homes. While remote work has long been familiar to a small subset of highly-paid digital nomads whose job skills are in high demand for tech companies in expensive areas like New York and San Francisco, the prevalence of work-from-home in other parts of the U.S. has contributed to a new trend in economic development for mid-sized metros: offering incentives to individual remote workers who are willing to move there. In theory, the contributions these individuals make to the local economy outweigh the cost of incentivizing a move – though so far, there’s limited publicly available data speaking to outcomes. Below, we’ll take a look at three regions offering slightly different incentives to attract highly-paid remote workers talent.

Northwest Arkansas: Talent Incentive Program

The mountainous area around Fayetteville and Bentonville, AR has banded together as Northwest Arkansas for economic development purposes. Funded by the Walton Foundation (the family behind WalMart, which remains headquartered in the area), Finding NWA – the talent and community development arm of the Northwest Arkansas Council – offers qualified individuals $10,000 as an incentive to move to the region. There’s a special twist, too – to help newcomers engage with the area’s well-known outdoors scene, Finding NWA includes a free mountain or street bike, in addition to career-search assistance. For the less bike-inclined, workers can also choose a membership to a local museum.

Tulsa: Tulsa Remote

Known for its boom-and-bust history in the oil industry, Tulsa, OK was one of the first communities to publicly incentivize remote workers moving to the area. Like that of Northwest Arkansas, Tulsa Remote is funded by the George Kaiser Family Foundation, which has also invested hundreds of millions into regional amenities. The program offers $10,000 and a free coworking space membership to those who move, requiring them to sign a lease or buy a house and stay for at least a year.

Savannah: Creative Technologies Incentive

Unlike similar programs in Tulsa and Arkansas, the Savannah Economic Development Authority’s program is targeted to a far more specific audience. Offering $2,000 per worker, the Creative Technologies Incentive is designed to attract tech workers to bolster the area’s creative industry workforce. It’s also structured as a reimbursement for moving expenses once rather than an up-front payment.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS

If you were offering a Cola-centric “bonus” incentive, like NW Arkansas’ mountain bikes, what would your pick be for new arrivals?