Small US Towns Trying to Attract Digital Nomads with Lifestyle Benefits

Small U.S. communities that once lost people in the big city are hoping to attract new residents, as the increase in remote working makes it easier than ever to live away from the office.

“Now that they have the flexibility, people think about things in terms of the cost of living, people prioritize what kind of lifestyle they may want and which often can be linked to the outdoors. or different activities, ”says Matt Micksin, a senior regional manager at Common, a shared and rental apartment management company.

“Maybe I just want to be in a different place, and I want to be somewhere where I can do X, Y, and Z activities, be it fly fishing, kayaking, hiking, all the things that I don’t want to be disconnected with, ”Micksin says.

Common strives to identify and develop remote digital hubs – work and play communities designed with the specific needs of teleworkers in mind.

“And it’s things like, do you make flexible partitions, do you set up an office?” Facilitate yourself a different layout that makes it functionally easier to do what we’ve all been doing, which is having a laptop, making Zoom calls all day, ”says Micksin. “Is there a better way to do it?” We’ve all seen a lot of Zoom calls from someone who didn’t have an ideal setup. ”

The idea is to come up with designs that don’t force remote workers to pay for more space, like a second bedroom, to accommodate increased telecommuting.

“It’s really not an ideal solution,” says Micksin. “It’s going to cost more, you’re going to have an inefficient layout, you might have to spend more and not be able to get everything you want like location. But if you have a T2 [apartment] which has a thoughtful design, and it is intended to work from home, you can make it work and it is still the best way to have an efficient residence. Or, if you know I have an office in the space downstairs of mine, I can go and use it.

Finalist for the Joint Telecommuting Center in Ogden, Utah, near downtown and Powder Mountain, North America’s largest ski resort. (Photo WOW atelier / Atelier Design)

Common held a competition to identify ideal locations and concepts to develop remote work centers that will provide housing and workspaces for digital nomads. One of the five finalists is a community in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, a city of 54,000 people about an hour’s drive east of the capital, Raleigh.

The Rocky Mount Mills plan calls for the development of a remote work center in a former 9,290 square meter cotton mill that closed in 1996. The surrounding site has already been redeveloped with commercial and residential spaces, as well as restaurants and brasseries.

“You will be immediately connected to everything from weekend events and evening events to a network of people who also fill your similar role, different types of workspaces, from coworking to individual office suites to business areas. ‘expansion,’ says Evan Covington Chavez, director of real estate development at Capitol Broadcasting Company, who submitted the offer to Common.

“Maybe there are spaces where people can make presentations or have people come over or they do conference calls that require some sort of larger screen for presentation purposes. Having all of this kind of built into the model so that they are accessible to people makes it easier for people to make decisions. ”

With a small village already in place, Capitol Broadcasting Company was eager to add a remote work center component to existing residential units.

“You can choose to work in your apartment, or you can choose to go down the hall to the private conference room or the common workspace, or meet in the beer garden, or have a drink. coffee at the cafe, all of that stuff that is literally right outside your door, ”says Covington Chavez. “You never have to get in your car and find the nearest cafe, or find out where the local restaurant is, or find a quiet place to be able to hold a conference call. All of this would be within walking distance of where you live.

Old cotton mill at Rocky Mount Mills in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.  (Photo by Carl Lewis)

Old cotton mill at Rocky Mount Mills in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. (Photo by Carl Lewis)

Another finalist was the city of Bentonville, Arkansas, with a population of approximately 62,000 residents and approximately 209 miles of mountain bike trails that connect downtown to the city. The focus on lifestyle is a key element in selecting the five finalists for the remote hub.

“Bentonville is perfectly positioned to be a remote work destination with a unique combination of a premier business community, world-class outdoor amenities, including the mountain biking capital of the world, and artistic and cultural experiences in big cities, ”Jared Faciszewski, director of real estate development and investments for Blue Crane, who submitted the proposal to Common, told VOA in an email.

There are many unknowns, as remote work centers are a new concept designed to accommodate a changing workforce and will undoubtedly continue to be perfected. Each solution is different for each location, but the bottom line for people working remotely remains the same.

“They need to feel comfortable because they have to be efficient and they want to take advantage of this new flexibility,” says Micksin, “and they don’t want it to be necessarily something that creates complexity or complexity. inefficiency or adds additional costs.

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