AZ Central: Working Remotely? Tucson may have a space for you.
Written by Michel Marizco
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Tucson has long marketed its more than 300 days of sunshine to lure in college students and snowbirds. Now a nonprofit with funding from the city has started a program to lure working professionals.
"You’ve seen all these stories of people now that have worked from home or they’ve been working from home. Big cities are not necessarily as attractive as they used to," said Liz Pocock, CEO of Startup Tucson, the nonprofit that runs Remote Tucson.
"People are looking for different quality of life. They’re looking to connect with their communities in different ways," she said.
It’s offering people who relocate about 7,500 in incentives, including moving money, a year of Internet, a workspace, and an ambassador to help them settle in.
The program is starting off with a pilot to relocate 10 people. They must have a job that exists elsewhere and they have to be willing to make Tucson home for at least a year. It is modeled after one in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Zach Yentzer is one of the ambassadors who will work with people who relocate.
"We make sure they have all their questions answered. That they’re connected into the basics of where do I live, where do I shop, where do I eat, where do I play," he said.
Of course, there’s the inevitable future and what that means for remote work. Some health care experts predict a vaccine by next spring, suggesting a return to some kind of normal.
"You know I hear a mix of forecasts. I hear the office is dead, it’s a brand new world. I don’t buy it. I think it’s going to be half and half," he said.
Some companies, he predicts, will want a return to the connectivity of a shared office. But not all.
"I think some though are going to look at the new possibilities and say hey, maybe we can pay individuals a little bit less because of where they’re geographically located," he said.
Tucson has a little more than half a million people, locals still call it the Old Pueblo, that’s one draw Remote Tucson is banking on. Another is the lack of climatic disasters.
Obviously we don’t have blizzards here, we don’t have tornadoes here, we don’t have hurricanes here, said, Tucson Association of Realtors CEO Randy Rogers.
The organization is sponsoring the program. He hopes the program will eventually attract 50 to 70 people every year. And when they arrive, they’ll be facing a tight real estate market where lending rates are low and median home prices of $265,000 are less than in most of the country. Homes are selling fast.
"We are seeing a lot of interest in Tucson," he said.
Britney Griffith and her husband moved to Tucson this summer.
"So we never intended to move in the middle of a pandemic. This move was actually started being planned in the fall of 2019. My husband wanted to work more closely with his father and we had assumed the best time to move would be over the summer since I’m in education," Griffith said.
They were told they needed to bid above asking price for a home.
"Which is a crazy thought that there’s no room for negotiation for homes right now," she said.
Remote Tucson has been taking applications since November. There were 200 applicants in the first week.