As worker incentive programs gain traction in the Midwest, Milwaukee leaders are among a spate of local-level officials considering introducing similar strategies to get a leg up on attracting talent.
A Wisconsin Policy Forum report released this week examined the rise in popularity of such worker incentives programs. The report found that the Midwest has the most communities offering such programs, although Wisconsin has been “slower to embrace this approach.”
“Like other economic development incentives, this approach can be controversial since it targets benefits to a relatively small number of individuals in a community – while potentially delivering minimal benefits for the population as a whole,” reads the WPF report.
A WPF analysis found at least 71 communities nationally that have worker relocation programs offering $1,000 or more in cash, or other incentives of significant value.
Milwaukee could be next in offering worker incentives. While Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson was still Common Council president, he requested the Department of City Development explore similar ways to incentivize workers to relocate to Milwaukee.
[caption id="attachment_526432" align="alignleft" width="300"] Cavalier Johnson[/caption]
The Remote Workers Plan, released at the start of the year, highlights several recommendations on incentivizing workers. Among those recommendations is working with organizations like the MKE Tech Hub Coalition to create a statewide remote work program that offers incentives for remote workers to move to Wisconsin.
The plan also references direct worker incentives as a "useful strategy." Such incentives could include a pilot program that offers both cash and a welcome package with free or reduced prices to area attractions and restaurants. Another possibility is a finder’s fee to Milwaukee residents who convince others to move to the city. While the exact costs of these incentives are not yet known, the plan says the range could be anywhere from $100,000 to $1 million, depending on what incentives are offered.
“While opinions vary greatly on the pros and cons of virtual/remote work, it is clear that post pandemic, more employees will be requesting greater flexibility regarding work from home options from their employers, and many employers believe providing that flexibility is a way for them to attract and retain the talent that they need,” reads the city’s Remote Workers Plan.
[caption id="attachment_559337" align="alignleft" width="300"] Lafayette Crump[/caption]
A DCD spokesperson said the city is still speaking with potential partners about contributing to the incentives mentioned in the Remote Workers Plan.
One of the city’s overall goals in considering these incentives is to make Milwaukee a “destination region.”
“To attract and retain all workers, including remote workers, we need greater investment in things that make Milwaukee a destination for workers that can choose to live anywhere,” said Lafayette Crump, commissioner of the DCD. “By doing so, we will not only help attract remote workers, but these improvements will also create a positive value proposition that will attract all workers and benefit existing residents.”