Attracting New Residents & Talent is the New Currency for Economic Development

Have a family member or friend who has an itch to relocate? They’re not alone. People have been moving to new cities at an accelerated rate. According to a recent CBRE report that analyzed U.S. Postal Service data, there were more than 29 million address changes (to new markets) in 2020 alone, which represents nearly a quarter of all U.S. households.

This migration can be credited to several factors, including the spike in remote work, the desire to move to regions with lower costs of living and an interest in finding a new community that delivers a stronger quality of life. 

No matter the reason for moving, the workforce and resident migration trend is catching the interest of many. Even the Wall Street Journal has created a tool to help residents find the right place for them, quizzing participants on interests and aspects of a community – ranging from cost of living to racial diversity – to match them with their ideal home.

For small-to-medium-sized communities, the migration trend represents a key opportunity for economic advancement and sustainability – but innovation in their economy and positioning is often needed.

Once reliant on manual-based jobs in sectors such as manufacturing to fuel their economies, these communities have suffered from a mass exodus over the past few decades as people fled to large metropolises for higher-wage, knowledge-based careers.

These economies, which often exist in remote or isolated locations, have seen baby boomers – who drove the manual-based job market – retire and younger generations opt for larger, sophisticated markets. COVID-19 has also played a role, as job losses and facility closures have encouraged some to move away, even as the market recovers. Finally, these communities have not invested in workforce training programs that help markets keep pace with the economic transition to knowledge-based careers.

How to win workers over
The market is ripe for small-to-medium-sized communities to attract residents and talent, especially as people prioritize lower costs of living, remote work opportunities and a stronger quality of life. Adding to the momentum, Upwork, an online work marketplace, reported that 20.6% of the U.S. labor force who are committed to relocating for remote work (about 4.7 million people) will leave major cities.

So how do you win them over? Two critical action steps exist.

No. 1: Invest in your quality of place

As evidenced in our recent “Why They Moved” study, individuals place a much higher emphasis on quality of place than some may believe, with only 12% of study respondents moving solely for a new job, 46% first looking for the right place to live and 42% equally balancing place and career.

Extending beyond a region’s job market, leaders should focus on investing in the quality of their place, helping potential residents envision the life they can enjoy outside of work. Investments to consider include activating trails, parks and waterfront, amplifying your downtown district, creating walkable communities and enhancing schools and infrastructure. 

However you choose to increase your quality of place, make it distinct, ownable and unique to your community.

No. 2: Market your community

The impact and attraction to your quality of place is limited unless you market it. Whether it’s through your website, paid media, social media (check out our recent blog post for tips) or even a relocation incentive campaign, telling your story and sharing what makes your community unique helps attract new residents and talent. 

The Quincy, Illinois story

Enter: Quincy, a west-central Illinois town nestled on the Mississippi River, that took action to counter its declining population. Quincy desperately needed more residents and talent to fill its hundreds of open jobs with sustainable employers in industries such as healthcare, technology, manufacturing and financial services.

By working in lockstep with its city council, Quincy invested in its quality of place in a big way, placing $196.3 million into its schools, downtown, public safety, infrastructure and more since 2016. It also launched a multi-year resident and workforce recruitment campaign, “Quincy’s Calling” in 2021, offering property tax or rent rebates of up to $5,000 for individuals who moved to Quincy for a job.

The campaign also incentivized existing residents to participate in the effort, offering and organizing a drawing for a $250 gift card to local Quincy restaurants to those who provide names of friends and family members who ultimately relocate to Quincy.

The Quincy’s Calling campaign features a variety of engaging content, including a website, relocation guide and video testimonials from individuals who recently relocated. Billboard, TV, radio, print, digital and social media advertising took place in several nearby markets, and the campaign received significant news coverage nationally, regionally and locally.


Just four months after the launch of Quincy’s Calling, the city saw 43 people relocate to Quincy as a result of the campaign – a great start to an initiative that is currently slated to run for nearly another three years.

There’s no time to waste

Whether you’re looking to brand your community, invest in your quality of place, market your region or all of the above, now is the perfect time to get started as people continue looking for a new beginning. 

We’ve helped hundreds of communities position themselves for a stronger future. Let us help you jump-start your tomorrow, today.