ACADIA TALENT INCENTIVE PROGRAM
Attracting and retaining a talented workforce is one of the most pressing issues facing nearly every rural community. An increasing trend of young people are choosing where to live based on the amenities a place offers over job prospects, and the people moving to areas like Acadia Parish typically have an existing connection to the area (e.g., family lives there). Keeping people in the parish can be even more challenging if the region’s communities do not begin to offer the housing options and amenities desired. Acadia Parish must ask itself: what entices people to live here and stay here?
Since it will take time to implement the amenities included in this action plan, Acadia Parish can overcome this attraction and retention challenge by developing an incentive program(s) for specific industry. In Acadia Parish, each community is facing a unique set of workforce challenges that present countless opportunities for economic growth and diversification. During the visioning sessions and stakeholder meetings, residents and employers alike expressed a need for more healthcare professionals, administrative assistants, culinary talent and agricultural workers. In addition, residents expressed a desire to innovate and advance the parish by providing workforce training in computer science and information technology.
What is ATIP?
To attract more talent to the regional area and meet the workforce needs of employers, the parish should launch the Acadia Talent Incentive Program (ATIP). ATIP should not only encourage people with specific expertise to move to Acadia Parish but also to remain in Acadia Parish. There are a variety of ways to lure talented people to the area, but ATIP should feature the following incentives for those identified workers they are trying to attract:
- Student debt forgiveness
- Housing assistance (e.g., monthly stipend)
- Relocation expenses
The total amount will vary on the set number of people who partake in the program and the amount of funding allotted to each category listed above. Here is an example of how this can work:
In 2020 – when all projects in this plan are completed or underway – Acadia Parish wants to implement ATIP for healthcare professionals and remote workers in the technology sector. To keep program costs at a feasible level, the parish should cap ATIP participants to 10 people. ATIP should offer:
- Up to $10,000 in student debt forgiveness
- Up to $200 in monthly housing assistance (e.g., for rent or mortgage); and
- Up to $3,000 in relocation expenses.
The student debt forgiveness should be paid in thirds at a rate of $3,333 each year the person is employed at a participating organization. The monthly housing assistance should be provided to each participant for up to 36 months. If a participant does not have student debt, this money can be used for additional housing assistance, relocation expenses, or qualified work-related expenses (e.g., computer software or hardware, co-working space membership, etc.).
|YEAR||# OF PARTICIPANTS||RELOCATION COSTS||HOUSING ASSISTANCE||STUDENT DEBT FORGIVENESS||TOTAL|
How is ATIP funded?
The businesses also will benefit from the program being administered by a single entity, such as the Acadia Parish Chamber of Commerce. This will reduce the amount of overhead each organization needs to commit to ATIP and ensure all 40 businesses share in the benefits of the program: a skilled workforce that will likely bring with them families, creating a multiplier impact across the economy. The managing entity will have fiscal management responsibility for ATIP and also will ensure that all businesses have the chance to tap into the funding as needed.
ATIP should be collaboratively funded by 40 participating employers, Acadia Chamber of Commerce, Acadiana Economic Development Council, South Louisiana Community College, Acadia Parish Police Jury, State of Louisiana, and the Acadia Parish School Board. Each of the aforementioned organizations should contribute at least $3,500 per year and each employer should contribute at least $2,500 per year. These contributions will allow Acadia Parish to support 8 new people every two years and will enhance the workforce pipeline for targeted industry sectors. While not every business will hire each year, pooling resources will, in the long run, result in cost savings for each participating business. Each business would only have to tap into ATIP every 8 to see a one-for-one return on investment.
It is important to recognize there may not be 8 participants in the initial years of the program. Any remaining funds should be redirected to marketing efforts to grow awareness about the program and also for the development of industry-driven workforce training classes in parish-wide schools. Ideally, ATIP will sunset at a time to be determined based on employers’ ability to fill jobs and desire to support remote workers.
The full ATIP business plan is available in Appendix G.
Why should Acadia Parish consider offering talent incentives?
Rural communities are more susceptible to declining populations compared to their urban counterparts. Typically, people abandon rural communities because they lack big city amenities and quality of life offerings. But urban areas are expensive and crowded, and many people who move to urban places are willing to move back to rural communities given the right circumstances. Sometimes people who come from small communities just want to experience life in a big city but don’t necessarily want to live there for the rest of their lives. Nowadays, there are plentiful opportunities for remote work so people can choose to live where they want. If Acadia Parish wants to stimulate economic growth, it needs to prioritize investing in their current and future residents. Economic development efforts are successful if companies feel confident that the area provides their leadership and employees with superior quality of life offerings. Additionally, companies need a talented workforce pipeline locally to grow and prosper. Acadia Parish should be strategic in identifying the workforce needs of employers so the parish can incentivize people with the desired skills and talent to move here and fill jobs. Moreover, the parish should consider building partnerships with regional technology companies to train and hire people to work remotely in Acadia Parish (e.g., using the Enterprise Center 2.0). This saves companies overhead costs and is mutually beneficial for all parties involved. Finally, the bottom line is this: more people will generate more tax revenue for the parish to reinvest in communities and make Acadia Parish a better place to live, work, and play.