Could remote work be economic development’s new secret weapon?

Could remote work be economic development’s new secret weapon?

By: Laurel Farrer

Recently, I visited some family members who had moved to a stunning rural town in Ohio. Their new home was a stone’s throw away from dozens of organic Amish farms, sported a charming historical downtown district, and had some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen. Add to those benefits the low cost of living, and I expected the city to be bustling with tourists and residents who were savoring the slice of heaven they had found.

Unfortunately, reality could not have been more opposite. With a 35% unemployment rate and 18% of its population in poverty, the local economy seemed to have plummeted beyond repair. This community is a tragic, but common, sample of cities throughout Midwestern America and many parts of post-industrial Europe. Where factories have closed, workers have evacuated, leaving empty economies that don’t have the tax base to invest in resuscitation strategies.

Is it possible for these stories to have happy endings? Maybe. We loved this recent article by that credited recruiting remote workers as the opportunity for these cities to grow again, and offered the three following municipal benefits:

1. Remote work encourages entrepreneurship.

2. Remote work preserves neighborhoods.

3. Remote work empowers families.

Imagine us shouting “Amen” and “Hallelujah” because that’s what we’re doing behind our laptops right now. Here at Yonder, we advocate remote work not only because it’s awesome to work in your sweats, but because flexible work arrangements have the power to change the lives of people, of companies, and of communities. So, why stop there? We’re nothing if not gabby, so let’s keep a good thing going, and explore twelve more ways in which municipalities can benefit from hosting a remote work community:  

4. Remote work attracts new talent. This is the number one goal of most economic developers, but it traditionally requires expensive investments in the city’s infrastructure first. Not anymore. With remote work, you can just entice the employees, without having to convince the entire company.

5. Remote work builds a tax base. New citizens mean new taxpayers. Even better, remote work salaries are usually calculated based on national averages which may be much higher than your local rates.

6. Remote work strengthens the local technology culture. A city being perceived as “outdated” or “disconnected” can be a death sentence for your company attraction campaigns. The good news is that a great internet company is all that is required to attract a strong posse of remote workers who will bring loads of innovation and creativity with them.

7. Remote work diversifies labor pools. Your town might have a strong history of agriculture or manufacturing, but now you can recruit from an industry you want: technology, media, or even medical.

8. Remote work stimulates the local economy. It doesn’t take a world-class economist to figure out that new citizens bring their money with them, and they’ll be spending it in local businesses.

9. Remote work increases tourism. Remote workers don’t always collaborate online. In-person gatherings are quite common for distributed teams and often are based on the location of one of the team members. If your city has a great coworking space and some local attractions to entertain guests outside of office hours, chances are good that the remote workers in your town will recruit their team to join them there.

10. Remote work helps communities recover from natural disasters. With hurricanes, fires, and earthquakes overwhelming our recent news feeds, it’s fresh on our minds how a natural disaster can devastate a local economy. But if your citizens can continue to work through and after an evacuation, recovery can be assisted by the taxes they continue to generate while local brick-and-mortar companies are temporarily out of business.

11. Remote work supports city parks and recreation development. Untethered employees love remote work because it promotes work-life balance, and the most popular way to spend that extra time is in the outdoors. Remote workers will be using your trail system, parks, and bike lanes much more than the average citizen.

12. Remote work revitalizes industrial areas. Have an old, unused warehouse? Clean it up, add some comfy couches and standing desks, and install light-speed wifi… now you’ve got yourself a revenue-generating coworking space!

13. Remote work diversifies politics. Yeah, this one surprised us, too. But diluting the urban-rural divide will affect more than traffic patterns.

14. Remote work is good for the environment. No commutes mean lower emissions, which means less air pollution. Nice!

15. Remote work reduces unemployment rates. New jobs may not be available in your area, but they are certainly available somewhere else. With remote work, an entire city population could get new jobs without ever leaving their living rooms.

How has remote work helped your local community? Tweet us @yonder_io to share how you foresee remote work affecting your community!