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The Rise of Remote Work Incentive Cities

2020 saw a huge boost in remote work, and with that came some surprising and unexpected side effects. Along with massive zoom fatigue and a huge boost in async communication, we saw another unique change — cities paying workers to relocate! As odd as it might sound, a handful of cities and states began to offer incentive programs to entice remote workers to move and join their community.

As remote work has proliferated due to the global pandemic, workers have finally been given a choice to decide where they want to live, independent of local job opportunities. These incentive programs are a way to capitalize on that geographic flexibility. This has opened up a competitive market for cities and states trying to attract remote workers and bring outside money into their local economy. For the first time ever, cities are no longer just working to attract companies, but they are working to attract individual employees who have the freedom to work remotely.

How do these programs work?

Most of the remote relocation programs offer some sort of incentive to attract remote workers to come live and spend money in their community. Normally there are a series of qualifications as well as an application process in order to qualify. While each program has their own rules, many of them require that…

  • You are over 18 years old

  • You have a remote job with an employer outside of that city or state

  • You meet a minimum salary threshold

  • You are willing to relocate within the next 6 months or year

Usually the incentives offered aren't straight cash, but a subsidy that goes towards renting or buying in the city, relocation costs, and general setup. They also often require the participants to stay put for at least a year in order to receive the full benefits offered.

A lot of smaller rural cities and states suffer from brain drain and see remote work as a way to recapture some of the talent that left to pursue careers in big cities. These locations are aiming to attract high earning, successful people who otherwise may not have thought about living in their city. As of now, most of these programs are limited in size and thus somewhat competitive.

Why are people joining these programs?

Well, free money doesn't hurt! However there's quite a bit more to it than that. Most of the locations trying to attract remote workers offer other things that traditional business hubs don't. The most obvious one is a lower cost of living outside of major cities. Lots of remote workers are looking to leverage their big city salaries with small town cost of living to get the most bang for their buck. This is aided by the fact that a lot of companies are still creating pay ranges based on their city of location and not the location of the remote worker.

Some other perks these incentive cities are flaunting is their amazing natural beauty, their small town community feel, or their thriving cultural scenes. While this type of program might not be for everyone, it's certainly alluring to a certain demographic of people. Workers are now able to get the best of both worlds — a good career and high quality of life outside crowded cities. Before now, many professionals have been forced to leave their homes behind in search of opportunities in big cities, however remote work is threatening to change that and put the power back in the hands of the employee.

5 Unique Remote Relocation Programs

Now that you know a bit about these remote relocation programs, here are a few of our favorite unique examples.

#1 Topeka, Kansas

The Choose Topeka Relocation Initiative has been a booming success so far for this capital city of Kansas. Topeka has attracted over 40 people from around the world to relocate and either buy or rent apartments or homes. Topeka is offering up to $15,000 in incentives to move there and become a part of their community.

Interestingly enough, Jimmy John’s will even add a $1,000 bonus for candidates who relocate into one of their three Topeka sandwich delivery zones.

#2 Northwest Arkansas

Northwest Arkansas has allocated over 1 million dollars to attracting new talent through their Life Works Here Initiative. This program boasts about the low cost of living as well as the high quality of life found in this part of the country. While it may be off the beaten path for most people, it has a thriving culture, arts and food scene. Northwest Arkansas is offering up to $10,000 towards getting set up, but they are also throwing in a free mountain bike so you can take full advantage of the beautiful surroundings.

#3 The Shoals, Alabama

The Shoals is a beautiful region of north west Alabama that includes Florence, Muscle Shoals, Sheffield and Tuscumbia. The Shoals might sound like it's in the middle of nowhere, but it's perfectly located within a 2 hour drive of Nashville, Birmingham, and Memphis. This program is also handing out $10,000 to help draw remote workers into this unique, undiscovered part of the country.

#4 Tulsa, Oklahoma

Another Southern city with a lot of charm to add to the list. Tulsa has already relocated almost 400 people as part of their Tulsa Remote program and are trying to attract even more remote workers in 2021. Not only does Tulsa give you $10,000, but you also get access to free desk space as part of the deal. Tulsa not only has a thriving arts scene, but also offers a low cost of living and high quality of life — what more could you want?

#5 Hawaii

While no one would ever think Hawaii needs to offer incentives to attract people, the state put together its Movers And Shakas program to attract more remote workers. While this program doesn't compensate you with cash, Hawaii does offer you a free flight and heavy discounts on things like hotel stays while you are there. However in exchange for this, they ask you to give 15+ hours of volunteer time as well as help mentor local workers and startups.

These are just a few of our favorite unique remote relocation destinations, however there are more and more popping up every month. As remote work continues to become the new normal for knowledge workers, expect to see more cities competing to attract this remote talent. With more location flexibility, remote workers are regaining the ability to make decisions about where they want to live and how they want to build their lives.

Produced in Collaboration with Voodle.
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