Johnson City initiative to attract remote workers successful so far

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JOHNSON CITY (WJHL) – A Johnson City campaign to incentivize remote work has resulted in several people planning to move their home office to the city.

Organizations behind the Johnson City Remote Work Campaign said the program, still in its first phase, has spurred 124 applications. Ten people have committed to moving to the area or already have, according to Alicia Phelps of the Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association.

The campaign aims to get those workers to come to Johnson City by offering incentives up to $5,000 depending on income.

Remote work is more than just a trend that developed during the pandemic. Mitch Miller of the Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership said it is here to stay, and presenting the area as an option for remote work could lead to economic impact for existing residents and businesses.

“The economy is starting to shift to be more work from home long-term, not just through the middle of the pandemic,” Miller said. “I think it’s a new form and way of attracting jobs to an area.”

A presentation at Thursday night’s Johnson City Commission meeting from Phelps said the early economic impact from the workers currently moving to Johnson City is estimated to be over $250,000.

The workers brought to Johnson City thus far have average incomes above $100,000, Phelps said. Miller believes that money will be injected into the local economy.

“More money being inserted into our economy will ultimately be transposed throughout,” Miller said.

David Juboor applied for the incentive but was dropped from the program. The Disney remote employee decided Johnson City was the place to be and came anyway.

Juboor said the city is an attractive location for any remote worker.

“We liked Asheville a lot so we were looking for places around the area that would be close enough to the mountains but far away enough from the city,” Juboor said. “We were like, “alright, let’s move here.'”

He said the area has been a great place to set up his home office because of its high-speed internet capabilities, potential for outdoor activities and lack of state income tax.

Johnson City Mayor Joe Wise said the movement of remote workers to Johnson City is part of a larger trend of skilled workers moving to the city.

He said the city will need to build the appropriate housing to give those workers and their families a place to stay.

“The challenge we have in housing is that we’ve just come through more than a decade where we really didn’t build any new housing stock,” Wise said. “We are an appealing place to relocate to, so we need to be prepared for those folks as well.”

Wise said the remote worker program alone will not cause a significant strain on the housing market.

Juboor said finding an apartment was a difficult process upon his initial move to Johnson City, eventually finding one, but recently moved into a home.

Miller said the economic partnership is looking to expand the program into other Northeast Tennessee localities and counties.

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