Recruits in town could produce “$ 90,200 in economic income per person”
MUNCIE, Ind. – Offering incentive packages to attract employers is a very old and common practice. In a recent twist, Muncie completely skips the employer and targets employees directly.
Mayor Dan Ridenour has spent $ 250,000 in income tax money on local economic development and the Indiana Economic Development Corporation is matching that amount with the goal of marketing Muncie to people working remotely. The city offers people who work from home and earn $ 70,000 or more, $ 5,000 in cash as well as collaborative workspace offered by The Innovation Connector and access to the Ball State University library. The incentive package is valued at $ 6,000 on a website called MakeMyMove.com. In return, the home worker moves to Muncie.
Ridenour said the town has partnered with a company called TMap, which operates the website and actively markets the town to people who have expressed a desire to relocate to communities the size and nature of Muncie.
âThey do a lot more than put an ad on a website,â Ridenour said. “… They know a person’s habits, likes and dislikes.”
People who have already consulted Muncie or communities of a similar nature will be recruited directly. The mayor said Lafayette landed 19 new citizens using this method of recruiting.
“Based on what Lafayette saw, they think about half of the workers will be single and half will come with families,” according to a press release issued by the city.
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The overall cost of recruiting, including incentives and payment to TMax, is approximately $ 11,000 per newcomer. City officials hope to bring 45 new home workers to Muncie over the next five years, Ridenour said.
Ridenour said TMap only recruits home workers who earn $ 70,000 or more each year. He said places like Muncie can appeal to those who live in large metropolitan areas. The city government has hired people seeking to escape places where the cost of living is much higher and the stress of life is also higher.
The mayor said he started working with TMap in August and recently secured matching state support for the project.
Other Indiana communities sharing the website with Muncie include Greensburg, which advertises a $ 7,000 incentive package; Bloomington; Jasper and French Lick. Information included in Muncie’s online offering indicates that recruits must be 18 years old and move to Muncie within the next six to 12 months. They must be self-employed or employed full time with remote work privileges and they must be U.S. citizens or eligible to work in the United States.
Ridenour said institutions in the city, such as Ball State and IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital, are places that could provide jobs for a spouse or professional partner who is also moving with the recruit.
Michael Hicks, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University, said the pandemic had sparked more interest in hiring remote workers.
âHome relocation grant gadgets have become more popular, but are still scarce,â Hicks said. “Today, only 1.7 out of 1,000 cities participate in such a program.”
The local economist said the incentive amounts are so low that they are not much of a motivation to relocate as much as they are a marketing tool to grab a recruit’s attention.
He said the program could be of value, “if they really recruited people who weren’t going to come here anyway.”
Hicks said the city needs to focus on the fundamentals of a good community offering things like good schools. He suggested the city could also create a scholarship fund to send local students to Ball State in exchange for their acceptance to live in Muncie for a period of time after graduation.
âThe real problem with relocation incentives of any type is that they are an unspoken admission that something is wrong with your city,â Hicks said. “A more effective policy might be to spend taxpayer dollars to fix the problems of taxpayers who live here rather than trying to attract new residents to the area.”
Another problem with the effort, he said, was that Muncie has a high poverty rate with around one in three people living at or below poverty level. The city takes tax money from people who earn about $ 40,000 a year and uses it to “pay the rich to move to the city.”
Ridenour noted that everyone benefits when the community attracts more people who will contribute to the local economy.
The economic impact could reach $ 4,059,000 in Muncie by 2023, according to the city’s press release.
âThese numbers can be broken down into local tax revenue of $ 2,300 per person, state tax revenue per person of $ 4,900 and consumption output per person estimated at $ 83,000. All of this adds up to 90,200. $ per person in economic income from this business, “the statement read.
David Penticuff is the local government reporter for the Star Press. Contact him at [email protected]