The COVID-19 pandemic introduced millions of people to remote working in many industries. With more and more people seeing the “new normal” as an opportunity to work from new and different locations, some communities are looking to attract the best talent. Along with expanding business opportunities, many cities and towns across America are offering cash and other incentives to remote workers to move into their neighborhoods.
Where To Find Them
Finding these lucrative locales has gotten easier with the creation of MakeMyMove, the brainchild of the former team of Angie’s List, according to Christie Luther Hurst, VP of Marketing and PR for MakeMyMove. Indiana, the former home state of the team, was facing a workforce shortage, so they worked to identify and target talent to Indiana companies.
Several other regions—Tulsa, Oklahoma, Northwest Arkansas, and The Shoals Alabama—had existing programs, but there wasn’t an easy way to find them.
“In December 2020, we started MakeMyMove to help cities and towns across the country recruit remote workers. We put them all together at MakeMyMove.com and then started working with new cities to design their own recruitment programs,” says Hurst. There are now over 60 communities represented on the site.
Starting on MakeMyMove's website, offers and communities are found quickly with the easy to use tabs at the top of the page. Each offer describes the city, demographic information, the closest airport, a fun fact, median home price on one side, and the incentive offer and eligibility requirements on the other side.
Creating a free profile (over 50,000 users have to date) allows users to sign up to receive notifications on offers that match user interests and choose to like or save an offer by clicking on the Heart button. Then when ready, apply for a program, which most of the time launches the program’s specific website.
Applications are simple and don’t require a significant amount of personal information. If selected, the program will connect the person moving with locals and resources in the new community to make the move officially happen.
Offers vary by community location—the incentives include money toward moving expenses, homeownership, free or discounted co-working space memberships, professional development, tax credits, gym memberships, and more.
Communities also feature their specific eligibility requirements. For example, some require users to have independent remote income or self-employment outside of the community (with certain income levels), while others require getting a job in the new location.
Others require a minimum residency time, a specific size of home to be built, or other such commitment to the new community.
Users can view programs and communities here.
Some also feature some unique perks. For example, in Greensburg, Indiana, organizers are offering free “Grandparent” services to new families who move there. Hurst said that it wasn’t hard to find people who want to live among people who support their neighbors.
“Since December 2020, we’ve learned how much demand there is for communities and their businesses to grow through talent attraction,” explains Hurst. “At the same time, remote workers are demanding a better quality of life—affordability and deeper connections to their community.”
The success of the programs is representative of the communities and the movers alike. Testimonials from those who have moved are featured on the site and the MakeMyMove social media channels.
One such couple who moved from DC to Northwest Arkansas is Anela Malik and Ahmed Zuhairy. They had never thought of Arkansas as a destination until finding out about the program offered by the Northwest Arkansas Council.
The pandemic found them stuck inside their cramped apartment, unable to participate in the everyday social activities they were used to. The activities offered in Northwest Arkansas and the cash of $10,000 helped push them to make a move.
“It offered us a chance to move and get a fresh start without going into debt,” said Malik.
One website testimonial features a user named Lokesh, a remote worker. “Being connected to Purdue and living in a college town, I have access to an intellectually stimulating environment and great amenities.”
Barbara Stapleton, Former VP Of Business and Talent Initiatives at Greater Topeka Partnership, who created the program there, shared this with MakeMyMove in 2021. “So far, it’s been an overwhelming success,” says Stapleton.
“We’re bringing new people to the talent pool who are excited to be here and contribute to the community. They’re bringing their families, they’re restoring the property, they’re 100% incremental.”
Of course, not everyone is a right fit for every community. Most communities want to make sure these new residents look beyond just the incentives and want to become part of the community. That’s one of the goals of MakeMyMove as well, to match them with the right program.
Plans To Expand
As the success of the current programs grows, there are likely to be more programs and places offering similar incentives to move. “We’re talking with new cities and towns every day about creating new remote worker relocation programs in their communities,” says Hurst.
“It’s a new concept, but the Mayors and economic development organizations get what an opportunity they have right now. There’s a lot of interest in the US, so I think we’ll keep our focus here for a while, but I look forward to the day that our platform expands internationally.”
Those remote and self-employed workers looking to make a lifestyle change—whether it be a desire to cut costs, live in a smaller town, or discover a new piece of the country—should consider the wealth of options currently available across the United States. A fresh start may be what many need to enhance their work and life balance.
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Kelley Dukat is a freelance writer, photographer, and event planner currently based in the United States. She has spent the last year as a nomad traveling and house-sitting. She holds a Journalism degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder and previously served as a trade magazine editor. Her favorites include dog-friendly travel, road trips, and nomad life. She is currently working on a memoir and a series of personal essays.