BY ERIC WOODS
For those not tied to their current living locations, a couple areas in the United States are hoping to entice people to head their way. Both Tulsa, Oklaholma, and the state of Vermont have recently established programs that will pay people to relocate. It may only be a matter of time before more cities and states follow suit, but would Springfield ever consider using this technique as a recruiting tool to get people to move to the capital city?
To be considered for the Tulsa Remote program, applicants need to meet four eligibility requirements. First, the person must be able to move to Tulsa within six months. Next, the individual needs to have full time remote employment or be self-employed outside of Tulsa County. Finally, anyone hoping to take advantage of the program must be at least 18 years old and eligible to work in the United States. A housing stipend is also provided in the hopes of sweetening the deal. The city will work to identify housing options that meet each person’s unique needs.
Tulsa Remote was created to enhance and help boost the city’s workforce community, and the city provides a total of $10,000 to incentivize a move. Because remote arrangements take planning, the city provides some money upfront to help with relocation expenses, a monthly stipend and the rest upon the completion of the first year.
“I love the ingenuity of this program, but perhaps a better grant program at the moment would be making similar-sized investments to build up Springfield’s culture to make it more attractive to transplants,” said Lisa Stott, executive director of Downtown Springfield, Inc. “Grants of this size would go pretty far in downtown, the type of neighborhood that is attracting younger workers, whether to get a new small business going – like the ones being developed in our Momentum on Main Street pipeline with Innovate Springfield – or to offset some of the costs of renovating upper story space into apartments.”
Thanks to a bill signed by Governor Phil Scott, the state of Vermont began accepting applications at the beginning of 2019 for their Remote Worker Grant Program. This program pays $10,000 over two years to people who work remotely for an out-of-state company and are willing to move to Vermont. The grants were awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis with a total of 50 grants allocated for the program. People can use the money for such expenses as relocation costs or even computer software and hardware.
For the Vermont program, applicants had to be a full-time employee of a company outside of Vermont, perform most of their job duties remotely from a home office or co-working space in Vermont, be 18 years or older, and move to the state on or after Jan. 1.
Josh Collins, interim executive director of Land of Lincoln Economic Development Corporation, believes in Springfield’s ability to bring in skilled workers. “I know from personal interaction that Springfield is home to a number of telecommuters, which is no surprise since our community has a highly skilled and productive workforce,” he said. “I believe our community’s overall quality of life, affordable living and cultural amenities make Springfield and Sangamon County a uniquely comfortable place to live. The Land of Lincoln Economic Development Corporation is currently developing a branding and marketing strategy that will focus on attracting businesses and people to the community.”
While it would be difficult to predict whether Springfield would ever take this route as it relates to attracting people to move here, Tulsa and Vermont have similar reasons for offering these programs. In both cases, people are leaving the state, and the average age of the areas’ workers is increasing. Governor Scott even announced his state’s demographic problem last year, which helped get the new incentive program pushed forward.
Should these programs show a positive return on investment, Springfield might consider looking into a similar approach.
“While I’m not aware of any discussions to provide a cash payment to people for moving here, I believe our community can be successful by proactively improving our efforts for telling our story and marketing our assets,” said Collins.