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How badly does Topeka need workers? It'll pay you up to $15,000 just to move there

Kevin Hardy, The Kansas City Star on

Published in Business News

Topeka leaders are using cold hard cash to lure more workers to live in Kansas' capital city.

The new Choose Topeka program, approved this week, will pay up to $10,000 to people who rent and $15,000 for those who purchase a primary home--after a year of residency in the city. A news release says beneficiaries can use those funds "for all types of moving related expenses."

The Joint Economic Development Organization (JEDO), a combined effort of Topeka and Shawnee County, approved the measure Wednesday evening. It's set to launch in 2020.

The program is part of Go Topeka, an arm of the Greater Topeka Partnership and JEDO. The group is expected to split the cost of the incentives with employers, who will decide who is eligible, said Barbara Stapleton, vice president of business retention and talent initiatives at the Greater Topeka Partnership.

She said many of the city's largest employers were on board with the new program. But they'll use it to target hard-to-fill positions, she said.

"We're not saying, 'Help, we need people to move here for every job we have,' " Stapleton said. "That's not the intention."

 

Employers may use the incentives on top of signing bonuses or moving expense reimbursements.

"Some employers may already have some plans like that in place, and this is something that could be layered," she said. "But it also gives some flexibility for mid-sized or smaller organizations that maybe don't normally have that capability."

The $300,000 commitment will provide incentives for 40 to 60 new resident workers during the program's first year.

A recent study found that 40% of Shawnee County workers who earn more than $40,000 per year live outside the city. The new program aims at capturing some of those commuters as well as aiding employers' efforts to recruit new workers.

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