Cantlon: Luring remote workers here
Originally published Tuesday, June 11, 2019 at 10:21p.m.
I’ve written a couple of times about an economic opportunity that Prescott has an excellent shot at, better than almost any other place. Now it turns out other places are being smart and trying to grab that opportunity.
Rather than focusing on tourism, which has some negative effects, or trying to attract big outfits that don’t have much reason to come here, we should focus on building up what we already have, and what a lot of people would like to do, to come here and be entrepreneurs or independent workers. The types of work and businesses that can happen from anywhere. The consultants, the experts, the people who work strictly on the computer across the internet, the media creators, etc.
The radio piece
I’ve known people who work in the movie industry and do their work at movie sites all over the world but make this home-base, and consultants in various fields with clients who contact them from all over the country, a T-shirt designer who gets orders from all over, does the designs, and sends them to production operations around the country. People who have customers outside the area, and those customers send their money to these small businesses here.
There are lots of nice small towns, but Prescott has long had one of the strongest pulls for people who want to move to one. The scenario usually is someone discovers Prescott, wants to move here, but can’t until they retire. Times are changing.
Remote computer work is becoming so common that some towns around the country are offering people some money to help with the move if they’ll move to these small towns and work from there. And people are. You can find various stories on it but a good summary was the “On Point” radio show of March 11.
Tulsa, Oklahoma, is paying a limited number of people $10,000 if they can move there, have work they can bring with them, and commit to stay for at least a year. The state of Vermont is doing similar by helping with moving expenses and other expenses up to $10,000. They’re getting many times more people applying than they have slots for these programs, so they can take their pick.
I think Prescott could go one better. Prescott seems to have a history of attracting strong willed, independent people who are ready to put in a lot of industriousness and creativity into carving out a way to make it here, despite it not being an easy place to do that. People who discover it and will do whatever it takes to be here because they don’t want to be any place else.
So why not do a similar program of helping people get here and get set up, but not just focused on anyone whose company will let them work remotely, but rather specifically on the entrepreneurs and very small business people. They’re likely to fit the fiber of Prescott better, have even more constructive effect on the community than just another person with another job, and, this is key, have bigger spill-over effects on our economy.
In that radio show they interviewed a woman who is one of the chief economic advisers for the Trump administration, and she pointed out how many of these independent workers end up needing other people. They hire at least one helper, or they subcontract with local businesses. And this was just about those remote workers, not even focusing specifically on the entrepreneurs.
Such people likely would give jobs to some of our own local people as helpers, a few may continue to grow into not-so-small businesses, many will need the goods and services of other local businesses, and, this is again key, they will directly or indirectly, intentionally or not, mentor our community, especially our young adults, in the possibilities of entrepreneurship. And what could possibly be a bigger help to our young adults and to the goal of making it more possible for them to stay here?
Tom Cantlon is a local business owner and writer and can be reached at comments at tomcantlon.com.