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Northwest Arkansas will provide a cash incentive and a street or mountain bike to qualified remote workers who relocate to the area.
Hoping to capitalize on the increased number of Americans working remotely, northwest Arkansas is offering a five-figure cash bonus—and, in its unique twist, a bicycle—to entice out-of-state residents to put down roots in the region.
The Life Works Here initiative, presented by the Northwest Arkansas Council, will offer “top remote working talent” a $10,000 cash incentive to move to the area, along with a street or mountain bike to help recipients take advantage of miles of trails. (People who aren’t into biking can opt for an annual membership to an arts or cultural institution, such as the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.)
To be eligible, applicants must be at least 24 years old, with a full-time job and at least two years of work experience. They must live outside of Arkansas and be able to relocate to the region within six months of accepting the incentive, and be either a U.S. citizen or have the necessary credentials to work here legally. Each household is limited to a single incentive, though the council will “assist accompanying spouses in their effort to find employment.”
The council has not identified a specific number of intended recipients, saying only that the project is a pilot with a starting budget of more than $1 million, furnished by the Walton Family Foundation. The goal, the council said, is to eventually help northwest Arkansas fill more than 10,000 STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) jobs.
“We want to attract talent who will help us build a richer long-term talent pipeline that supports our thriving local economy,” the council said on its website.
Cities have toyed with cash incentives to attract young professionals for several years, including North Platte, Nebraska, and Tulsa, Oklahoma, which launched their programs in 2017 and 2018, respectively. But more municipalities—including Topeka, Kansas and Savannah, Georgia—started incentive programs more recently, hoping to attract skilled workers who are fleeing big cities as the coronavirus pandemic drags on and remote work enables them to search for cheaper places to live.
Arkansas was already a popular relocation choice, ranking sixth among popular “inbound” states for people moving due to Covid, according to data from United Van Lines, a moving company.
“Right now we know a lot of people are re-evaluating their priorities and their lifestyle,” Nelson Peacock, president and CEO of the Northwest Arkansas Council, told Forbes. “We are seizing the opportunity to capture attention at this time when many employers have extended work from home opportunities and employees—knowing they can work from anywhere—are reconsidering where they are living and what they are prioritizing.”
Kate Elizabeth Queram is a staff correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.