As numerous Small suburban and rural towns in Wisconsin, Fond du Lac faces a labor shortage.
As students of the University of Wisconsin system graduate and are tasked with finding jobs, many are turning to major cities like Milwaukee, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Madison for work.
It’s no secret that these cities, despite their metropolitan allure, are to become more and more unaffordable. Fond du Lac tries to reorient these young professionals and young graduates far from the big urban consumption centers towards their own city.
Fond du Lac’s economic development officials – faced with the reality of an aging workforce, 25% of whom will be 65 or older in the next 10 years – recently created a worker relocation incentive program to encourage professionals to settle in the region. Economic problems caused by COVID-19 restrictions also contributed to the city’s decision to launch the program.
The incentive offers several benefits in a tiered system and pays up to $ 15,000 in direct cash compensation. The workers who do $ 35,000 and rent a house for at least a year Is eligible receive $ 4,000. Those who earn $ 65,000 or more and buy a house in Fond du Lac can get the maximum of $ 15,000.
The program depends on the participation of local businesses, which should provide the cash incentives up front in exchange for 50% refund of the city’s economic development agency.
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The jury is still out on how effective these programs are in getting people to move and whether they significantly enhance the city’s development. But a similar program in Topeka, Kansas showed promising results in 2019, with 40 new workers moving to the city.
As numerous as individuals see it now, the choice to move to a smaller city depends mainly on the drop in the cost of living.
In 2021, the median rent of a T3 in Madison was $ 1,306, while at Fond du Lac it was $ 854. A high cash incentive could stimulate significant migration to rural towns. However, the ones that Fond du Lac offers may not be enough imbalance employment opportunities between metropolitan areas and more rural towns.
The initiative could partly increase the desire of young professionals to live in Fond du Lac. The government is trying to invest in the local economy by creating more jobs and purchasing power in the area, which could benefit current residents.
However, current residents who have already decided to move to the area before the start of the program will not receive money directly. If the program does not lead to a tangible economic boom in the region, it could prompt these residents to move to a larger neighboring city.
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In other words, this program is high stakes.
Grants as a strategy for solving social problems are only successful when they have a clear purpose within the local economy. But done too lazily – such as simply throwing money at people – can prevent the grant from reaching the service or entertainment. Industries most affected by COVID-19 in Fond du Lac.
For young graduates looking for a job, the advantages of moving to a city like Fond du Lac lie in its affordability. They won’t have direct ties to the local economy – like homeownership – and can spend most of their incentive payments on savings or debt repayment.
Ultimately, the Fond du Lac grant is a band-aid for a larger problem. In the United States, business development and population concentration are shift away from rural areas and in expensive metropolitan areas where economic bubbles exist.
Infrastructure is partly to blame for this brutal split. Roads, broadband access and utilities in rural areas are in poor condition across the country, which is why President Biden is trying to push a two trillion dollar infrastructure deal through Congress.
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The pandemic has shown that some jobs do not require an office or people to be in person to do the majority of their work. That being said, the majority of the country’s work can be done remotely.
Young professionals in Wisconsin, especially students looking for an affordable start to their careers, should consider participating in the Fond du Lac incentive program.
Until the federal government makes bigger changes to the way it levels infrastructure development between small and big cities, it’s understandable that graduate students and young professionals still see big cities as a point. attractive starting point for their career.