Rural communities attract teleworkers with good broadband and programs – like in Bemidji

The Daily Yonder reports on a growing migration to well wired rural communities…

Priscilla Bergstrom and her husband decided to leave Denver, Colorado, after 30 years and move to a rural community with a slower pace of life, a lot of outdoor activities, and a fast internet connection. They settled on Bemidji, Minnesota, one of many smaller towns and rural communities that are beginning to employ incentives designed to lure remote workers just like the Bergstrom family to make them their new home.

The found Bemidji through 218 Relocate…

While perusing the local newspaper, Bergstrom came across information about 218 Relocate, a recently launched program to attract remote workers to Bemidji, Minnesota, population 15,000. The program attracts remote workers through various incentives, including up to $2,500 in reimbursed expenses for moving; free co-working space; and access to a program connecting newcomers to established residents. …

In the case of 218 Relocate, it wasn’t an attempt to replicate another community’s success, but instead capitalize on the connectivity that Bemidji has, Erin Echternach, assistant director of Greater Bemidji Economic Development, which runs the program, told The Daily Yonder.

“We were trying to come up with a program that really capitalizes on that fiber-optic Internet,” she said.

Since its launch at the beginning of February of 2021, 18 people have taken advantage of the program so far, with three more scheduled to receive the relocation grant by the end of October, Echternach said.

“We’re really a regional hub for Northern Minnesota and people are just finding out about us,” she said. “And when they get here, they’re surprised at what’s here. But there are some that literally have thrown a dart at the map and they’re like, oh, Bemidji, let’s try it. They love it.”

For Bergstrom and her husband, who was able to relocate his job to Minnesota because he works for a global company, the opportunity for outdoor activities attracted them to the area. They also considered an incentive program in Northwest Arkansas, she said.

Greater Bemidji is piloting the program for two years, Echternach said. And so far they have been pleased. Program participants must physically move to Bemidji, she noted, but they are able to live within a 60-mile radius of Bemidji proper.

This entry was posted in economic development, MN 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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