Working from home has been a growing trend over the last decade; however, with the recent disruption due to COVID19, a large majority of workers and companies are being forced into a work from home situation. While we don’t know how long this will last, one thing we can count on is that many more workers and companies will continue to embrace a remote work environment even after things return to “normal”.
Working from home has a host of benefits to workers and businesses and there are plenty of articles and content out there on that. What we want to focus on here is how that impacts cities and their economic development efforts.
In an era of brain drain, many cities and those responsible for economic development are searching for ways to both retain and attract talent to their communities.
At CivicBrand, we work with cities across the country on city branding, destination marketing and economic development projects, and attracting talent is almost always at the top of our client’s list of the goals of those projects.
For many communities it is a bit of a chicken and the egg scenario. They can’t attract talent without jobs and they can’t attract businesses without a strong talent pool. So what do cities do?
Fortunately, the explosive growth of working remotely gives communities the power to now attract residents without having to first get those jobs. Instead they can attract residents based on their community values, natural resources and let those residents bring your own job, BYOJ!
On a recent community branding project in Park Rapids, MN, where we established the Heartland Lakes brand, we focused on just that. During the research and engagement process we noticed a few interesting things. First, this small rural northwoods community had an impressive internet connection for such a small town. Second, across all projects we’ve noticed a generational shift where many young professionals were looking to escape the big city and find a place to raise a family that was more in line with their desired pace of life and access to outdoor activities. This made the Heartland Lakes an ideal location to attract young, educated talent to their community that they may of otherwise never had the opportunity to.
We began to tell these stories through a series of videos called “Stories From The Heart”. One of the first stories was that of a young family who decided to relocate from the Twin Cities to Park Rapids, MN.
By focusing on the brand principles of your community and delivering that story to an audience that shares those values, cities now have a great opportunity to attract future residents without having to waste money on corporate incentives to attract companies that will provide jobs.
For those cities that need to accelerate that process and do have the opportunity to use incentives, there are great examples of communities shifting those incentives directly to the future residents instead of the corporations.
For example, Tulsa, Oklahoma has been offering remote workers $10,000 to relocate to their community through the Tulsa Remote program. The city also offers additional benefits to those who take advantage of the program, offering a free co-working space, monthly workshops, and networking opportunities with fellow members. While the idea may seem out-of-the-box, the purpose of this strategy is to help Tulsa establish itself as a modern and creative city, drawing in tech workers, digital nomads, and creative minds from across the country.
While the coronavirus is presenting its own challenges to cities, this accelerated growth of remote workers is a great opportunity for cities and economic development to really define their brand principles and put together the messaging and strategies to attract that talented workforce to their community.
This talented workforce will not only bring their own job but they bring fresh ideas, energy, and investment into your community and local economy which when all added up creates a snowball effect that extends beyond just the work from home crowd.
How is your city working to attract and foster work from home talent? If you need some guidance on that, CivicBrand can help.