Ask Brianna Mosier to cite reasons for people to move to Genesee County, and she’ll readily list a few — a low cost of living, cultural amenities that are the envy of even larger metro areas and a choice of rural, suburban or urban settings.

Brianna Mosier
Brianna Mosier

“We have a whole county of options available for you depending on who you are, what your why is, if you’re a single or you’re a family,” said Mosier, director of organizational development for the Flint & Genesee Group.

And now, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mosier has a new audience to inform about those options: remote workers.

She and others who are involved with local talent recruitment also have a new tool at their disposal: “Attracting and Retaining Talent in the Flint/Genesee Region,” a report compiled by Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate students that includes examples of how other parts of the country are trying to woo remote workers — often with cash incentives.

Although many workers nationwide are filing back into offices as the health crisis subsides, a significant number are expected to continue working remotely — conceivably nowhere near the worksites they reported to pre-pandemic.
It’s those people who are being added to the mix of local talent attraction and retention efforts that are part of the Forward Together process, launched in 2019 by the city of Flint, Genesee County and the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce (now the Flint & Genesee Group) to promote economic prosperity.

“Now we know that remote work is possible, even in organizations that thought it wasn’t for them,” Mosier said. “We see larger employers across the country telling their employees that they can work from home forever.”

Global Workplace Analytics estimates that 56 percent of the U.S. workforce holds a job that is at least partially compatible with remote work. It also predicts that by the end of the year, up to 30 percent of the workforce will be working from home multiple days of the week.

That’s a trend that Forward Together strategists are watching closely.

“We’re in the early stages of formulating a talent attraction strategy for our own community,” Mosier said. “We’ve been exploring possibilities for a few years now but are still trying to determine how programs that have been successful around the country might translate here.”

Examples cited in the MIT report of what other parts of the country are doing to attract remote workers include Tulsa, Oklahoma, which is offering $10,000 and free desk space at a co-working office to new arrivals who remain in the community for at least a year. West Virginia is providing $12,500 toward a home purchase and a $2,500 outdoor recreation package.

The report also notes that some cash incentive programs have received pushback from local residents who have struggled during the pandemic and believe the money should go toward helping them.

That’s a consideration that would go into planning any local program, along with determining how incentives might be funded, Mosier said.

The Forward Together team is also looking to build on efforts to convince people who already have ties to the area — such as growing up and graduating from high school here, attending college locally or having family in the region — to return to Genesee County.

Back to Michigan banner

Flint & Genesee joined with eight other regions around the state for a collaborative, multi-day virtual career event held between November 17-24, 2020, called Back to Michigan. The series of virtual networking events targeted people who were interested in relocating to Michigan and provided opportunities to speak directly with hiring employers.

The MIT report was a class project provided for free in appreciation for information the Flint & Genesee Group supplied to the university while it was tracking the impact of COVID-19 on main streets throughout the country.
While it won’t serve as a true blueprint, it’s full of information that will help advance local economic development efforts, Mosier said.

“We thought it was a great opportunity to put some more thought and research behind talent retention and attraction efforts across the country,” she said. “They benchmarked and reviewed a lot of best practices, including some examples that we weren’t aware of.”

Beyond exploring remote working opportunities, the report also includes details and recommendations on how the community can build a strong, positive brand and target entrepreneurs to locate here — which also dovetails with retention and attraction efforts that are already underway locally, Mosier said.

“The traditional way of thinking is that you go to school, and then if you can’t find a job here you have to go elsewhere,” she said. “This report looks at it from the sense that if there’s not a job for you, bring the job that you already have with you because you can work remotely or create the job you want by exploring the entrepreneurial ecosystem that already exists in Flint or Genesee County.”