Topeka, Kansas is offering an enticing deal for remote workers to put down roots in the city. Through the state capital’s new Choose Topeka relocation initiative, employees who work remotely for companies based outside Shawnee County can receive up to $10,000 if they purchase a home, and up to $5,000 toward a one-year lease, if they relocate to Topeka or Shawnee County.
For context, the median list price of homes in Topeka is $142,300, and the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $769. The Topeka area, located in the Greater Kansas City region and an hour from Kansas City International Airport, is home to 178,915 people.
“Topeka is only one of a few cities in the entire country to offer this type of incentive to relocate remote workers,” said Dan Foltz, board chairman of GO Topeka, an organization of the Greater Topeka Partnership, the leading economic development agency in the region.
He added, “Communities, such as ours, that invest in talent ultimately reap the benefits of a robust and specialized workforce as well as a stronger, more intentional community.”
Participants will need to verify proof of prior residency and proof of an existing salary/benefit package. They will also need to purchase or rent a home in Shawnee County before applying for the incentive. Only one relocation incentive will be allowed per household. The employer providing remote employment must be based outside of Shawnee County. Last year, Topeka offered incentives worth up to $15,000 to encourage talent to move to Topeka and Shawnee County.
Topeka is joining the growing ranks of small and mid-sized cities looking to attract remote workers with incentives. Tulsa is capitalizing on the trend with Tulsa Remote, a unique recruitment initiative aimed at attracting talented individuals to Tulsa. The program brings remote workers and digital nomads to the community by providing $10,000 grants and numerous community-building opportunities. Each grant is distributed over the course of a year to eligible remote workers or entrepreneurs living outside of Oklahoma.
The Savannah, Georgia Economic Development Authority established a Savannah Technology Workforce Incentive in May. The program reimburses individual moving expenses up to $2,000 for qualified technology workers currently located outside of Savannah.
“Topeka has always been an amazing destination for dreamers and innovators,” said Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla. “The decision to offer this opportunity to remote workers just gives the world one more reason to consider our city as a place to realize their dreams. As remote workers begin to look at our region, it will become clear why our community has become home to luxury hotels, top-quality museums and thriving innovation. We look forward to warmly welcoming new and diverse people to our growing and vibrant community.”
The Topeka community has a thriving arts and cultural community, including the NOTO Arts District, which is a newly revitalized downtown district, and Evergy Plaza, a $9.5 million revitalization project featuring gardens, performance spaces, a splash park and ice rink. Topeka is also home to breweries, eclectic eateries, live music venues, luxury hotels and a diverse array of art galleries and museums, including the Evel Knievel Museum, The Equality House and the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site.
De La Isla said, “To those remote workers looking at this program with interest, let me be the first to say we’re happy to welcome you to our vibrant, growing community, and we’re excited to provide you with the resources to help you start your best life here in Topeka.”
Topeka is home to a dynamic employer base with headquartered companies including Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Advisors Excel, Security Benefit, Capitol Federal and Evergy utility company.
In 2019, the city was selected by Plug and Play, a venture capital fund and corporate innovation platform, to be a startup accelerator location focused on animal health science and agricultural technology. Topeka will host about 20 startup companies per year as each one goes through the three-month startup accelerator program.
“As Topeka looks to develop its innovation space, this incentive will help us be able to target the best and brightest, especially within the fields of animal health and ag tech,” said Katrin Bridges, senior vice president of innovation for GO Topeka.
Topeka is less than 40 minutes from suburban Kansas City’s shops and restaurant districts, and less than an hour to downtown Kansas City, including the KC Crossroads District, the River Market and the Country Club Plaza.
“The pandemic has reshaped the way we perform professionally, with remote work becoming the new normal for many,” said Barbara Stapleton, vice president of business retention and talent initiatives for GO Topeka. “Within the last few months, Choose Topeka has seen a sharp uptick of remote candidates expressing an interest in choosing Topeka as their next home. It was imperative that a remote option for the relocation initiative come into play.”
Funding for the remote worker program comes from current allocations for the traditional relocation program approved in December 2019, which required that candidates accept a job with a Topeka-based company.
Since the initial Choose Topeka initiative was announced in late 2019, it has gained extensive traction. The Greater Topeka Partnership has received thousands of requests from across North America as well as international interest from potential candidates in Europe, Asia and South America.
Interested candidates can learn more about the Choose Topeka talent recruitment initiative and apply for the incentive here.