Chattanooga is one of the top U.S. cities for remote workers wanting to relocate, according to a new online service developed to connect remote workers to communities best suited for those wanting to move.
In a study by the digital service MakeMyMove, Chattanooga ranked among the top 10 U.S. cities as an ideal location for remote workers. Chattanooga, which boasts the nation's fastest citywide internet connections through EPB and a lower cost of living than most U.S. cities, is the only Tennessee city on the list and one of only three Southern towns listed in the top 10.
The study praised Chattanooga for its high-speed internet built by EPB as well as its natural outdoor attractions, including rock climbing options, an abundance of rivers and lakes, and a temperate climate that "make it a great choice for remote workers who enjoy any number of outdoor activities.
"The fastest internet service in the western hemisphere also makes Chattanooga a draw for remote workers who enjoy indoor, screen-based activities, and anyone looking to get in on a booming startup scene," MakeMyMove said in its report on the top remote work cities.
Despite recent increases in home prices, Chattanooga housing costs average nearly 30% cheaper than the U.S. as a whole and MakeMyMove concluded that the city's "re-invented downtown along the Tennessee River is great for shopping and dining." For those wanting to do their remote work around others, the study noted that Society of Work and Workhorse offer plenty of co-working space.
MakeMyMove based its rankings on what thousands of workers considering a relocation said were most important to them in making a move, including affordability, a sense of belonging, support for entrepreneurs, family considerations, outdoor activities and land availability.
The list of best remote cities, which does not rank the top cities other than being top 10 communities for remote work, also includes Detroit, Milwaukee, Pittsburg, Hartford, Connecticut, Lafayette, Louisiana, Rochester, New York, Springfield, Massachusetts, Virginia Beach and Youngstown, Ohio.
MakeMyMove — the brainchild of one of the co-founders of Angie's List, Bill Oesterle — is the nation's first marketplace that matches remote workers and their families to communities across the country offering relocation incentives.
The changing workplace
As remote work gained widespread use during the COVID-19 pandemic, a growing number of companies have shifted more workers to at-home work, wherever that may be. As a result, employers have handed workers the power to select their own geography.
"Pandemic-induced remote work has empowered people to take more control over where they live, work and play like never before," said Evan Hock, co-founder, MakeMyMove. "That's not only good news for workers and their families but also for smaller, 'flyover' communities that can now compete for the talent and wealth once concentrated in big cities."
Hock said the shift to at-home work could reverse some of the population losses suffered in the past in cities like Detroit and Youngston, Ohio, which lost manufacturing jobs and are now much less expensive places to live with most of the amenities of a larger more expensive city.
"Remote workers looking to move want to go to a place where their dollar goes a bit further and they want to live in a place that has a built-in culture where they will be welcomed and still a place where they might have some land or an ability to also get away," he said.
Chattanooga has twice been named the Best Town Ever by Outdoors magazine but the city is also only a couple of hours drive to bigger cities in Atlanta and Nashville.
"Chattanooga has both culture and outdoor amenities, but if somebody wants to branch out to another bigger market they have options nearby," Hock said.
Remote workers boost economy
Those new residents can prove to be a financial bonus for a city, Hock said. MakeMyMove estimates that many remote worker households bring more than $100,000 of additional economic impact in a community in their first year alone.
"What has not been fully understood about the accelerated move to remote work is the new paradigm this shift has created for worker-driven economic development in communities all across America," Oesterle said. "Our goal in creating MakeMyMove was to connect those who have a desire to move, but don't know where to look, with the communities that have the incentives and opportunities waiting for them."
MakeMyMove was launched last December as a "one-stop-shop" platform to help remote workers find out about jobs, incentives and amenities in particular communities. A growing number of communities are offering relocation incentives to draw remote workers. In Southeast Michigan, for instance, new remote workers are provided a $15,000 forgivable grant with the purchase of a new home.
Hock said about 40 communities already are offering incentives to lure remote workers with jobs to live in their towns. Such incentives are being offered by government agencies, non-profit groups and economic development agencies.
Local incentives studied
Sybil Topel, vice president of communications at the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, said the Chamber is actively recruiting workers to Chattanooga through its ChattanoogaCalling.com website and is working on providing discounts for those who move to town.
"We're working on two different types of packages that will include discounts but not cash incentives," she said. "We are in the planning stages of designing one centered on discounts with companies who offer co-working spaces, area restaurants and attractions, and a list of free hiking trails, outdoor spots, etc."
The Chamber is also working with the Chattanooga Tourism Co. to invite people to try out working remotely in Chattanooga with fast internet access from EPB as a key incentive inside specific vacation rentals, such as Airbnb. Topel said. Details of the new offers will be made available on the ChattanoogaCalling.com website when they are about to be launched.
During the pandemic, more than 60 million Americans worked from home and as many as half of those are likely to remain as remote workers, Hock said. According to Postal Service data, nearly 16 million people moved during the initial COVID-19 shutdowns from February through July of 2020 with temporary change-of-address requests up almost 27%.
The digital technologies that allow remote work could be as significant to the workplace as what the industrial revolution was more than a century ago moving millions of workers from farms to factories.
"I think we're seeing a permanent reorientation in how work takes place in the United States," Hock said. "Remote workers are suddenly free to choose where they want to live and work for the first time and they can choose the community where they want to live regardless of where they may work."
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