Rampant growth of remote work plows a path to rural communities

Acorn recently posted an article on how rural communities are changing their economic develop plans and using technology to lure remote workers…

Traditionally, rural communities have focused on enticing companies with tax breaks or other costly incentives to bring back jobs, in the hopes of replacing the businesses that have fled, downsized, or gone bankrupt. But this hasn’t proven to be enough of incentive, and has been perceived as unfair to businesses that were loyal to the area and never left.

Some rural communities have shifted to a new tactic, trying to leverage the very digital transformation that has left their economies behind: attracting remote knowledge workers.

As new technology has made collaborating across long distances highly productive, more companies have begun to shift to remote work. For companies located in expensive urban environments, hiring remote workers saves a significant amount of money, both by reducing the need for costly office space and by reducing salaries.

For rural communities, focusing on selling their town to individual people requires less capital and transformation than trying to entice large companies. These communities can pitch themselves as an idyllic alternative to the bustle and grime of overpriced cities. With a low cost of living, proximity to nature, and friendly cultures, these towns can appeal to millennials who value a well-rounded life, burnt out working parents seeking greater balance, and older workers who are over long commutes and the urban grind.

For a while many people thought this move to rural areas was for creative types online…

However, it is not the prospect of farming that is bringing knowledge workers to rural areas, but rather a different way of life and any “digital first” work. Artisans, graphic designers, consultants, marketers, and accountants all can operate without any operational changes from remote areas, so long as there is Wi-Fi.

Many people still conceptualize a move to a rural community as something only suitable for artists and writers, believing that other work requires a communal office and proximity to major commercial centers. This belief might have been true when internet was erratic and collaboration tools like Slack, Zoom, and Monday did not exist, but the digital transformation has made it easy to collaborate successfully from afar.

They don’t mention the disruptive impact of coronavirus, but it’s easy to make the connection as stay at home mandates create remote workers of us all…

As more and more companies offer remote work, the possibility of knowledge workers moving to forgotten communities becomes more plausible. Knowledge workers can find more land, bigger houses, and experience a slower pace of life. Rural towns can experience an influx of spending that can uplift their community.

This entry was posted in economic development, Rural and tagged by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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