Located at the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee rivers, Paducah, Ky., is one of the best places to live in the Bluegrass State. Not only does the city offer its existing residents a suburban lifestyle with easy access to several major Midwestern cities, but it is eager to welcome remote workers looking for a place to call home.
“Paducah has a great story to share,” said Pamela Spencer, communications manager for the city of Paducah. “We are a city that wants to grow in population, and our Remote Worker Incentive Program is a great way to do it.”
A growing trend
According to Statista, only 17% of full-time employees in the U.S. worked from home prior to the coronavirus pandemic. However, once stay-at-home mandates disrupted business as usual, the number of remote workers increased to 27%. There is no sign of things going back to “normal” any time soon. Thanks to improved productivity and employee health surveys, today’s employers continue to embrace hybrid work schedules. Experts suggest that by the end of the year, one in four American workers will be remote employees. For cities that have been experiencing a population decline thanks to the departure of a major employer in recent years, this shift is an opportunity they can’t afford to miss out on.
To capitalize on this growing trend and court workers looking for a community that boasts a great quality of life, low cost of living as well as plenty to see and do, the Paducah City Commission created the Remote Workers Incentive Program earlier this year. The program is designed to offer things that will financially entice new residents while helping immerse them into the city’s cultural and educational experiences. The city benefits from the increase in its tax base, which then has a ripple effect on more areas of community life, economic development and other ongoing returns.
In June, business development specialist Kathryn Byers presented the Paducah City Commission with a three-tiered “Do What You Do From Paducah” program that would keep the city competitive with other similar-sized communities, offering incentive packages to recruit more remote workers. It included not only the financial benefits and other perks but also a marketing plan that targeted six major cities from which they plan to lure talent.
“We know there is some interest from these tech banking, tech industry and marketing hubs in these regional cities, but we also wanted to make sure that we had ties to our own state as well,” Spencer said. “We have a lot of young people who go off to college in bigger cities and do not return, and so through this program, we hope to welcome that talent home.”
The program includes a mixture of items, such as $2,500 in moving expenses, free high-speed internet for a year, no payroll tax for a year and $1,000 in tickets to local events so remote workers can get involved in their new community.
“Some of the institutions that have participated in the program include The Carson Center, Murray State University, Maiden Alley Cinema, Paducah Symphony Orchestra, River Discovery Center and more,” Spencer said.
Eager to apply
To participate in the program, applicants must be 21 years of age or older, be a United States citizen, a permanent resident or have the proper credentials for working in the U.S. They must live at least 100 miles outside of the Paducah city limits, work full-time for a company in which all offices are located at least 100 miles outside of the Paducah city limits and be able to perform most of their job-related duties from a home office or cooperative working space; the latter requires written documentation by the individual’s employer. They must acquire primary residency in the city of Paducah within three months of acceptance into the Remote Workers Incentive Program and present evidence of this residence through a leased with physical address or a deed of conveyance of real estate. They must agree in writing to retain a primary residency for at least one year after the initial 12-month program, and they must not be a participant in any other publicly funded program or initiative.
After a few tweaks to the eligibility criteria and overall goals, the Paducah City Commission approved the ordinance establishing the remote workers incentive program on Aug. 10. The program was launched the following day, and according to Spencer, the response has been good.
“We’ve received six applications so far, and we’ve been able to approve two. Our goal is to get 25 new residents with this initial launch and then reevaluate it to see if we need to make any changes to the program,” she said. “The COVID situation has been horrible, but it’s also been a learning opportunity for businesses and communities to adapt to change. In the end, it wasn’t a question of whether we should create this program, but how could we not do it?”