Would you move to Lafayette for $10,000?

Bike riders in Downtown Lafayette
Cities are investing like bike paths, parks and other amenities sought after by young people in their choices of where to live. Photo by Robin May

The gist: Some communities are paying folks to relocate. It’s a novel way to win workers and potentially win back expats. Would it work here?

Tulsa Remote is the OG incentive move program. Launched in 2018, it targeted remote workers with $10,000 relocation grants. It’s working.

  • 2,400 people have participated 
  • 76% have stayed

It’s a big lift. And it’s not as simple as writing a check. Tulsa Remote has 26 people on staff with specialists who help “Remoters” find housing and build community.

“Our members have shared feedback that the program’s value is much deeper than the cash incentive,” says Justin Harlan, Tulsa Remote’s managing director.

Tulsa spent big on young people. The billionaire who funded the program also paid to build a new park and has spent millions on amenities aimed at young people. 

Money gets the attention. But community buy-in makes a program successful.

“There are a lot of small organizations thinking about the same thing,” Maggi Bienvenu says of Tulsa’s program. Bienvenu is One Acadiana’s policy lead on workforce development and a boomerang herself. 

Tulsa spawned imitators. Ruston aimed $10,000 grants, paid for by the city of Ruston, at families who left town. Seventeen of 25 households offered grants relocated — at least one from Lafayette (ahem). 

Money isn’t everything. Andrew Halbrook, who runs the Welcome to Ruston program and the city’s public utility system, says the grants weren’t the main attraction for everyone.

“It was a mixed bag. There were some that took, they signed up and took it because of the money. Another half were looking at the quality of life that Ruston brings,” Halbrook says. 

A cheaper approach. Warm fuzzies. Boomerang Greensboro (N.C.) lured 75 families and counting with a not-so-gentle reminder that home is where your heart is. No grants necessary.

A $30,000 grant seeded Greensboro’s initial marketing effort. The program sends out care packages to a growing list of expats. Those who apply find a team that works hard to make the transition easy. 

“We’ve done everything from finding a cello instructor” to connecting them with job opportunities, says Cecelia Thompson, who runs the program. 

Some caveats. Cities need to check some boxes: jobs, housing, community. Tulsa launched a $500-million housing initiative. Greensboro is in the middle of an economic boom. 

“Moving is a big decision,” says Greensboro’s Thompson, “whether it’s moving down the street or to a different city.” 

Big picture: Recruitment is hard work. Incentives help, but winning back talent takes a community-scale effort.

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