Topeka is offering $10,000 to remote workers willing to buy a house and relocate to the Golden City.
Since the pandemic’s forced work-from-home shift, remote workers have become the gold in a rush by rural towns and shrinking cities to attract these free agents and their out-of-state salaries.
“Looking at talent has become one of the most important assets that people are going to be vying for over the next 10 years for sure,” said Bob Ross, vice president of marketing and communications for the Greater Topeka Partnership, which runs the program. “We decided to go ahead and put our money where our mouth is and say you know what, if you’re willing to relocate here to work remote or for one of our local employers, you could get $10-15,000.”
Topeka already had an incentive program in place before COVID-19, but it didn’t focus on remote workers. Called Choose Topeka, the program offered incentives to those who would come and work for an already existing business in Topeka.
Ross said once the pandemic hit, they realized they had to switch gears.
“By April of 2020 we began to realize we need to adapt because there’s a lot of people with choices now that can work anywhere, so why don’t they choose to work here?” he said. “By August of 2020, we moved our program into the remote space so that we could compete for those newly remote employees.”
The incentive is available to homebuyers with salaries of at least $60,000 willing to relocate to Shawnee County, according to the Choose Topeka website. Up to $5,000 is available to remote workers who move into the county in a rental situation.
“What we’ve found is that the average employee that is moving here makes $87,000 a year, and we’re getting about a 14.6X return on the investment,” Ross said. “So just in the first year alone, we’ve had about a $3.9 million economic impact from the families that have moved to Shawnee County through this program.”
Those families often bring with them partners who are either also remote or end up working for a local employer, Ross pointed out, in addition to injecting money into the local economy through shopping, eating at restaurants and investing in their homes.
Ross noted the incentive program has made a huge difference, turning population decline around.
“It has changed the trajectory of the city in terms of interest in relocating to our community,” Ross said.
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Original Author: Elyse Kelly, The Center Square contributor