Remote Workers Can Live Anywhere. These Cities (and Small Towns) Are Luring Them With Perks.

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Topeka to Bemidji, Minn., areas try to boost the population with offers of cash, free coffee, and grandparent stand-ins.

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“I’ve had a lot of people ask me, ‘What are you doing in Topeka?’ Ms. Gonna said. “Okay, they’re giving me $10,000.”

The 41-year-old sold her Chicago condo earlier this year, and she and her fiancé, Matt Gordon, are renovating a home in Topeka, which they plan to move to soon. Couple, who had an office-based job at United Airlines Holdings Inc.

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Before the pandemic, she could continue working remotely, Ms Gaon said.

Similar incentive programs existed before the COVID-19 pandemic, including in Vermont and Tulsa, Okla., while others were in the works. But they quickly began to sprout after COVID-19 shut down traditional offices, including the Paduka, Q, program that launched in August.

In addition to financial offers, some locations are offering extras such as a free year at a co-working space in Bemidji, free coffee and martial arts classes in Stillwater, Okla., and discounted rafting and rock climbing in West Virginia. A new program in Greensburg, Ind. enlists a couple from the city who offered to serve as “grandparents on demand” to help care for the kids at school and Grandparents Day . In Topeka, sandwich chain Jimmy John’s had kicked in $1,000 for remote workers who moved to one of their local distribution areas, though that promotion just ended, according to an economic-development spokesperson.

These incentive programs mark a change from the old economic-growth model: trying to persuade companies, rather than individuals, to move. In some cases, communities say they are doing more harm to people than jobs. They also hope that the influx of skilled workers will make them more attractive to large employers. It is also difficult not to be involved in the field.

“Is this the new arms race? I would say yes,” said Justin Mings, chief executive of Stillwater’s Chamber of Commerce.

An Indianapolis-based company called MakeMyMove launched a website in December that serves as a listing site and portal for such incentive programs. The company said there are now at least 24 programs specifically targeting remote workers in the US, including 19 that have been launched since the pandemic began. The company also acts as a paid consultant to help build some of these programs.

Cash payments can be requirements for people living a certain amount of time or earning enough money, and larger paychecks can mean larger payments. Topeka pays home buyers at least $60,000, but less for those with lower salaries. Executives with multiple programs say they believe they will benefit from getting paid to attract people with higher-paying jobs as movers spend in their new communities.

The officials running these programs are betting that America will never fully return to pre-pandemic office life. According to Ladders, before the pandemic began, remote job listings in the US with salaries of $80,000 reached about 15% of all job listings in the third quarter of this year, up from about 13% in the previous quarter and at the end of 2019. was 4%. Inc., which runs the job site theladders.com.

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