Community Talent Attraction: 3 Strategies that Work

One of the most significant barriers to economic development and sustainability for regions across the country is accessing the right workforce. This includes the type of workforce who has the skills and capabilities required, in addition to the ability and desire to work in the specific region.

Released in December 2018, the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary from the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that there are currently more than 1 million more job openings than job seekers in America. With 7.1 million openings, job openings have exceeded job seekers for eight straight months.[1] Now, more than ever, it is pertinent that regions, communities, and companies support a talent attraction strategy that benefits their local economy.

Below, we have outlined some strategies and specific examples of talent attraction across the US that may be worth considering for your region.


Strategy 1: Statewide Student Loan Forgiveness

Education debt in the US now exceeds $1.5 trillion, exceeding both auto and credit card debt. For recent graduates, average debt at the time of graduation is about $30,000, up from $13,000 in the late 1990s.[2] In addition to federal programs, a common strategy for both keeping workers in a region after college graduation or incentivizing workers to come back to their home state after college graduation is student loan forgiveness programs.

Maine offers several student loan forgiveness programs, including loan forgiveness for educators, health professionals, veterinary medicine professionals, and attorneys in public service. Maine also offers the Opportunity Maine Tax Credit which many college graduates are eligible for if they are and have been a resident in the state.

New York State offers similar student loan forgiveness options for college graduates living in the state and participating in qualifying careers such as social workers practicing in NYS, graduates who pursue a career in farming, nurses, teachers, and attorneys working in public service.[3]


Strategy 2: Financial Incentives for Remote Workers 

With constantly evolving technology, the ability for people to work from anywhere continues to grow. Thanks to technological advancements, people can work from coffee shops, shared workspaces, and their homes with greater reliability and ease. Specifically, the number of remote workers has been steadily increasing and a staggering 1.7 million people will work remotely in 2018, according to Deskmag.[4] Additionally, according to a Gallup poll, 43% of Americans spent at least some time working remotely in 2017; this is a four-percentage point increase from 2012.[5] Some states are working proactively to capitalize on this trend.

In Vermont, Governor Phil Scott recently approved legislation that will pay 100 people up to $10,000 to move to Vermont in 2019 with the new "Remote Worker Grant Program."[6] Workers would have to be employed on a full-time basis and be a resident of Vermont by 2019.

Similarly, a company is offering financial incentives for remote workers to live in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In an effort to increase the number of workers in the information technology industry, the George Kaiser Family Foundation is offering $10,000 and free rent to remote workers who move to Tulsa, Oklahoma.[7]

The idea behind luring remote workers, who don’t necessarily serve as a workforce for the region’s existing companies, is that they will bring with them accompanying partners who may be looking for work, they help strengthen neighborhoods, frequent local establishments, and support the regional economy. And although they moved as a remote worker, some time spent in a community can open up other opportunities that they hadn’t previously known about and in turn create a pipeline of workers for the region’s existing businesses. 


Strategy 3: Regional Cohesiveness and Live, Work, Play Amenities    

It is not surprising that young people are flocking to areas that meet the needs of all aspects of their life, including working, socializing, shopping, eating, and participating in other recreational activities. Regions are capitalizing on this live, work, play trend by providing various amenities for the people who want to live and work within a relatively small geographic area. This is also relevant when understanding the increasing trend of remote work. 

To attract and retain workers, it is essential to create the community that responds to the desires to live, work, and play in the same place. Creating a live, work, place environment is multifaceted, this includes improving transportation options such as shuttle services, creating transit-oriented development (TOD) options, improved walkability and bike-ability through improved pedestrian and cycling connections. It is also important to expand dining, entertainment offerings and other amenities to create the types of communities that people want to live in.

South Dakota is pursuing an initiative they call Dakota Roots that is intended to attract people to come back to live there. They have a website that offers information about jobs, relocation assistance, stories of people who have moved, and other resources. The idea is to make it easy for someone to consider moving to South Dakota and it attempts to highlight all the benefits of living there that might be attractive to someone looking to move.[8]


It is a classic chicken or the egg situation – you can’t get companies without the workers, and you can’t get workers without the companies (jobs). With all the resources that are being committed to attraction and retention of companies, the same attention and resources should be committed to attraction and retention of workers. 


[1] Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary report the Bureau of Labor Statistics

[2] Maine is offering student loan assistance to people who live and work in the state by Annie Nova at CNBC

[3] Loan forgiveness, cancellation, and discharge NYS Higher Education Services Corporation

[4] Vermont Wants to Pay You $10,000 To Move There and Work by Laura Begley Bloom

[5] How Developers Are Adapting to Residents' New Live-Work-Play Lifestyles by Joe Bousquin

[6] Vermont Wants to Pay You $10,000 To Move There and Work by Laura Begley Bloom

[7] Stop Complaining About Your Rent and Move to Tulsa, Suggests Tulsa by Sarah Holder 

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