UPDATED, Feb. 17, 2021: GO Topeka has extended its Choose Topeka Relocation Incentive for an additional year, dedicating $300,000 to lure talent to the state capital. Each remote worker can receive up to $15,000 if they choose to relocate to Topeka.
To date, the program has welcomed 40 workers from cities like San Francisco and New York, with an average wage of $80,000 a year. Twenty-one workers have bought a home in Topeka, and the group has created $3.2 million in regional economic impact.
“This is an exciting validation of the work that went into developing this program,” Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla said in a statement. “Choose Topeka not only addresses an important need to attract talent to our community, but it is a powerful tool to provide many new people access to funds needed to buy a home."
- GO Topeka, an economic development group in the Topeka, KS area, is the latest to establish a remote work incentive program dubbed the Choose Topeka Relocation Initiative.
- The initiative will offer remote employees nationally up to $10,000 toward the purchase of a home in Topeka or Shawnee County or $5,000 toward a one-year lease in the region, in an effort to grow the Topeka-area community.
- The program is prepared to accept about 10 to 20 applicants, said Barbara Stapleton with the Greater Topeka Partnership. The effort is an expansion of a 2019 job relocation program that required candidates take a job with a Topeka-based company.
Topeka is joining the growing ranks of small and mid-sized cities paying remote workers to relocate. Tulsa, OK announced a similar effort in October 2019, offering to pay $10,000 to remote workers who relocate for one year, and the Savannah, GA Economic Development Authority announced it would reimburse a maximum of 50 tech workers up to $2,000 to relocate.
These programs are part of a broader remote workforce trend, expedited by the COVID-19 pandemic. Tech giants like Twitter and Square have switched to a remote workforce, for example, while companies like Nationwide Insurance are shutting down their physical offices to support a virtual team.
The pandemic has reshaped how people perform professionally, particularly with remote work becoming the "new normal" for many, Stapleton said.
Topeka touts attractions like a recently revitalized downtown district and plaza area, breweries, ample outdoor space and even an Evel Knieval Museum. Beyond its unique attractions, the city anticipates workers will be enticed to relocate due to its affordability.
A recent Hired report found 54% of tech workers would be "likely" or "very likely" to move to a more affordable city if they could work remotely full-time. The median price of a home in Topeka is $132,500, and the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom is $769; in comparison, the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in tech hub San Francisco was recently $2,471.
This initiative in Topeka, and similar efforts nationwide, could also support expert projections that low-density towns with high levels of education attainment like Madison, WI and Durham, NC will be well-positioned to recover from the pandemic.