NewsNationalTwo Americas

Small towns, big cities offering incentives and money to lure remote workers to live there

remote working
Posted at 1:04 PM, Dec 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-28 13:04:33-05

A recent study shows nearly 40% of Americans will work from home through 2025. Things were heading that way already, and then COVID-19 sped it up.

Sometimes, small towns that want to be heard lean into a gimmick.

In the 1870s, residents of Greensburg, Indiana noticed a small sprig growing out of the courthouse tower. Today, the sprig is still there and businesses there name themselves Tree City.

Recently, different signs have popped up – signs with phrases like “HELP WANTED” and “NOW HIRING” are visible in small towns and big cities across America.

“Just like everyplace else in the nation, we are begging for laborers,” said Tami Wenning, who works for the Decatur County Community Foundation.

Wenning loves children and her city. She knew if every place needed workers, Greensburg would need some way to stand out.

“We talked about all sorts of things that would make people comfortable coming into a community where you know no one,” Wenning said. “I said – you know, my husband, I was pretty sure he'd go along with this – that the two of us would be happy to serve as surrogate grandparents.”

Just like that, Greensburg became the latest place to post on makemymove.com, a web site where cities and towns recruit remote workers to relocate. For five people, the city is offering $5,000 in moving expenses among other things.

Evan Hock runs the site MakeMyMove.com.

“Greensburg is definitely a standout,” he said. “What we’re living through is a major societal shift in that millions of people for the first time are free to choose their homes independent of their employer.”

That shift gives workers leverage with their employer and with prospective cities looking to build their base.

“We give incentives to businesses all the time to get them to come to our community,” said Brian Robbins, who oversees Greensburg’s economic development. “We’re just taking that approach towards individuals, towards families.”

“They bring tens of thousands of dollars in economic impact on day one,” Hock said. “They pay taxes. They spend at local restaurants and all of that money sort of trickles through the economy. For a community like Greensburg, it's a great deal.”

Greensburg is a town of 10,000. It’s among dozens of cities on MakeMyMove.com, including cities as large as Tulsa, Oklahoma and Baltimore, Maryland-- all dipping their toes into a new lane for growth.

But it was Greensburg, Indiana that went viral. The gimmick Tree City garnered national attention and 1,800 applicants for five open incentive packages.

“If you go into any small town,” Robbins said, “one person can make a difference, and that’s the magic of small towns. If we have five of those people, it’s going to be a tremendous impact.”

Added Wenning, “If we're going to keep being vital, we've got to have people here. If you're not growing, you're dying.”