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Topeka's cash offer for workers to move to the city is paying off

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A photo of downtown Topeka, Kansas from an elevated position looking north on South Kansas Avenue
Courtesy of Greater Topeka Partnership
Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla says 54 individuals have moved to Topeka due to this incentive program.

In an effort to stimulate the local economy, Choose Topeka has been offering qualifying candidates $10,000 to $15,000 to relocate to the capital city of Kansas.

States like West Virginia and Vermont have experimented with this kind of program, as have cities like Tulsa, Oklahoma. Choose Topeka has been running for nearly two years, providing $10,000 for each candidate, and up to $15,000 if you buy a home. Mayor Michelle De La Isla says it has been an overall success.

"Fifty-four people relocated," says De La Isla. "The return on investment to our community is 14 times the money that we invest in them and the average salary of the individuals that are coming into our community is $87,000."

She notes that aside from the economic impact, another major positive from this is the publicity it has provided for the city.

"What's incredible is that everyday we have people from all over the world," De La Isla explains. "I've had people write to me in my mayor's office from France saying 'I am interested in this program, I wanna come.' So, we have people from all over the world reaching out to Topeka, Kansas. Which is fabulous!"

Videogame developer Tyler Jaggers was one of the candidates who took advantage of the offer. He moved all the way from San Jose, California, and says that the cost of living and real estate were significant reasons that he decided to make the move.

Jaggers was able to buy a house in Topeka that he simply would not have been able to afford back home, where a house of the same size could cost millions of dollars.

"It was $50,000 for the home roughly. And then, I've done about 100,000 worth of upgrades and maintenance. To me, it's going to be my home for the rest of my life."

When I host Up To Date each morning at 9 a.m., my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. My email is steve@kcur.org.
As Up To Date’s associate producer, I construct daily conversations that give our listeners context to the issues of our time. I strive to provide a platform that holds those in power accountable, while also spotlighting the voices of Kansas City’s creatives and visionaries that may otherwise go unheard. Email me at zach@kcur.org.
Elizabeth Ruiz is a freelance producer for KCUR’s Up To Date. Contact her at elizabeth@kcur.org or on Twitter at @er_bentley_ruiz