Vermont, Oklahoma and Now Topeka, Kan., Want You

By now, you are probably familiar with the pitch: Move to a town, a city or even a country you had never considered or maybe even heard of, and get cash in return.

Add Topeka, Kan., to the growing list of places offering financial incentives to attract new residents and buttress an aging or stagnating population.

On Thursday, Topeka officials and business leaders announced they were pooling their resources and offering up to $15,000 to people willing to live and work in the city or its home county of Shawnee.

Organizers say they know the money they are offering is not much of a lure.

But David Callanan, a founder of Advisors Excel and AE Wealth Management, an insurance brokerage consulting firm that is part of the program, said officials hoped publicity about the campaign would prompt outsiders to look into an area that has seen its population stagnate.

The population of Shawnee County has remained flat at about 178,000 for the last 10 years. The program would require people to live in the county and work for employers that, in turn, would pay up to $15,000 in moving costs, as a bonus or to help with buying a home. Renters would get $10,000.

If a person stayed at least a year, the county and city would reimburse the employer half the amount.

“I think it’s a way for the littler guy to level the playing field and compete in a different way,” Mr. Callanan said.

The plan is to attract at least 40 people — ideally young couples who have families or are looking to start them — who can fill jobs in sectors like animal health science and financial services.

Mr. Callanan said that in a community as small as Topeka, even a few dozen people could make a difference.

“You add 50 or 75 families, that has real impact,” he said. “Fifty to 75 families in New York, Jiminy Christmas, that’s not going to fill one building.”

On Friday, GO Topeka, the group behind the program, said it had been flooded with calls and emails from people from New York, Canada and the Philippines interested in the offer.

Similar programs have seen some success.

Vermont made headlines in 2018 when state officials announced they would offer $10,000 to anyone who moved to the state and work remotely. It was an aggressive attempt to counter the state’s aging population that officials said had paid off.

Since the program started in January 2019, more than 120 workers, along with their spouses and children — totaling more than 300 people — have moved to Vermont as part of it, said Joan Goldstein, the state’s commissioner of economic development. Their average age is 37, Ms. Goldstein said. Next year, grants of up to $7,500 will be offered to people who move to the state and work for Vermont employers, she said.

Barbara Stapleton, vice president of business retention and talent initiatives for the Greater Topeka Partnership, said she hoped the campaign would attract the same kind of people Vermont lured: young workers tired of crowded, expensive cities where personal connections are hard to make.

The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Topeka is around $750, and the average price of a home hovers around $140,000. Topeka, Ms. Stapleton said, has good schools and lots of parks, and is in the middle of a renaissance, with a downtown that has attracted a brewery and new restaurants.

“It offers a good life and excellent cost of living: all those things that people are starting to seek out if they want more intentional community,” she said. “People are feeling an anonymity within the larger cities and that can be oppressive.”

At least a dozen other communities have come up with similar ideas.

In Tulsa, Okla., officials offer $10,000 to people willing to move within six months. In Baltimore, new residents can get a $5,000 credit toward the purchase of a home. For those looking for an entirely fresh start, the leaders of the remote village of Molise, Italy, about 140 miles from Rome, have offered to pay newcomers 700 euros a month to move to the countryside and start a new business, CNN reported.

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