At a time when rural regions across the U.S. are struggling to attract young professionals, the states of Kansas and Vermont have used public dollars to fight “Brain drain” by offering grants and tax breaks to professional workers who settle in small towns.
If an eastern Montana lawmaker has his way, Montana could soon follow suit. The Kansas opportunity zones program, created in 2011, offers college graduates as much as $15,000 over five years to help repay student loans when they move to designated rural counties, with funding coming from a combination of state and local money.
In a move that drew national media attention last year, the state created a program that reimburses telecommuting workers who move to the state up to $10,000 in moving expenses. According to news site VTDigger, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott said in January that he wants to expand the program, setting aside another $1 million annually to pay workers who move to Vermont up to $5,000 apiece whether they work remotely or take a job with a local company.
Krautter says his Montana proposal is intended to improve on the Kansas and Vermont models, recognizing, for example, that it makes sense to target incentives to Montana college graduates and others who already have some connection to the state and might be nudged into building a career in a small town. Krautter himself is an example: a Deer Lodge native who attended college out of state and then studied law at the University of Montana in Missoula before joining a law firm in Sidney during the Bakken oil boom.