Toto, we're not in NY anymore | Rural Kansas town offering $4,500, internet, & 'fresh eggs' to lure remote workers

Rural Kansas town offering $4,500, internet, & 'fresh eggs' to lure remote workers

Lincoln County, Kansas, is an unassuming area, located approximately 130 miles north of Wichita and home to just under 3,000 residents.

Safe to say, this rural community isn’t a powerhouse of emerging tech-fluent young talent. However, it wants to be.

The area is actively recruiting new inhabitants through an innovative incentive program.

The rural county aims to attract remote workers to stimulate the local economy and bolster community growth by offering a suite of enticing benefits.

New residents participating in Lincoln County’s mover incentive program can receive $4,500 in cash, a $500 credit toward high-speed internet, a gym membership, and a monthly supply of farm-fresh eggs.

Additionally, the program includes the offer of a free plot of land for home construction.

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This initiative is part of a broader trend seen in other US communities such as West Lafayette, Indiana; Ellsworth County, Kansas; and Tulsa, Oklahoma, where similar programs have successfully driven economic development in low-population areas.

To qualify, applicants must be full-time remote workers earning at least $50,000 annually, reside outside Kansas prior to the move, and commit to living in the county for a minimum of one year.

They must also relocate within six months of enrolling in the program.

An added incentive of $5,000 is available if a participant’s spouse or partner secures local employment.

Launched in January 2023 with a goal of attracting five remote workers in its first year, Lincoln County’s program has already received over 330 applications, with more than 35 meeting the eligibility criteria.

The program, which has been expanded due to its success, is supported by the Innovation Center, an economic and entrepreneurial assistance organization, and marketed by Make My Move, an Indianapolis-based company connecting communities with remote workers.

The initiative has proven so effective that the Innovation Center is now extending it to a larger region in Northwest Kansas, aiming to attract 70 new households. Already, 23 counties have expressed interest in participating.

Lincoln County’s effort is part of a broader state initiative known as the Rural Opportunity Zone program, which aims to draw new residents and expand the labor force across 95 counties.

Some participants may also qualify for state income tax waivers and student loan repayment assistance.

Kelly Gourley, Executive Director of the Lincoln County Economic Development Foundation, emphasized the importance of transparency and community integration in the program.

"We really work hard to ensure our movers know what we offer and what we don't, so there's no movers' remorse," she told CNBC.

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"And we work to match them up with people who'll not just introduce them to our community, but welcome them in."

Early movers to Lincoln County have relocated from major urban centers such as Atlanta, Dallas, and Memphis, Tennessee, drawn by the promise of a lower cost of living, affordable housing, tax breaks, and opportunities to reduce debt.

"The money is just the hook," Gourley noted. "It won't make someone like where they live; it's what comes after that makes someone feel good about the move."

With the success of its recruitment strategy, Lincoln County looks forward to welcoming new residents and fostering a vibrant, growing community.

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