Come to Tracy, get paid?

EDA looking to join national trend to draw people to town

By Per Peterson

The Tracy EDA is following the lead of other cities across the country in an attempt to bring people to town to work and live.

A six-month pilot program the EDA is working on with Premium Plant Services would pay new employees a total of $5,000 over three months to make Tracy their home and place of employment.

“This is something that we had talked about as a group over the last year or so; we felt that we needed something to incentivize people to move to the City of Tracy for jobs,” Community Development Director Jeff Carpenter said. “We know we’ve got plenty of jobs here in the City of Tracy. Right off the top of my head, I can probably list 30 jobs (for people) who want to move here.”

Tracy City Administrator Erik Hansen said the program is a way for the EDA and City to assist businesses that are having a hard time finding employees.

“You can kind of think of this as a movers’ grant program,” Hansen said. “It kills two birds with one stone. The City is looking to attract people to town … and there are some businesses that can’t fill some of the positions that they have. So it’s a workforce development program as well. This is not a new program — we’re not the first ones to do it.”

There was some back-and-forth at last week’s EDA meeting about how much money should be offered to people coming into town and how it should be doled out.

It was decided the money would be dispensed in three installments: $2,000 after the first 30 days in town, $1,000 after 60 days and $2,000 after 180 days.

EDA member Dave Tiegs asked what would happen if a new hire would leave the job to go work somewhere else in town. Carpenter said that person would no longer qualify for the program, since the goal is to help both the City in adding residents and the business in recruiting and retaining employees. It was determined that the person receiving the monies must stay employed at the same business for at least the duration of the program (180 days).

As it is in the experimental stage, the incentive workforce development plan will be limited to four people to begin with and will have a $20,000 cap. Hansen said the program would not carry a financial burden to the EDA; at the end of 2020, there was a little more than $300,000 in the EDA’s fund balance, with $192,182 in reserve.

“We have some money budgeted for business grants — it’s the source of money for this program,” said Hansen. “We don’t think all of that money is going to be spent this year at the rate we’re going.”

Tiegs made the motion to approve moving ahead with the plan under the aforementioned terms, and Daren Pedersen seconded.

Those seeking to be part of the program must fill out an application and be accepted by the City as well as the employer. Proof of residence within city limits will also be required during the duration of the payments.

This isn’t the first time the EDA has put out an incentive program. Years ago, the group started a program for new businesses, which also came with a $5,000 reward.

Hansen said it would be up to Premium Plant Services to advertise the program as it looks to attract new employees. He said the incentive program would be a good tool it could use as it looks to fill positions.

“It’s not about us advertising — it’s about Premium Plant Services advertising for the job and saying, ‘You can also get this from this program,’” Hansen said.

Hansen also said since this is a new program, it would be wise to start out small, with just Premium Plant Services.

“This is not unlimited — we’re going to try to do four,” he said. “Ultimately, we want to test it right now. We really want to limit it, because we can’t afford to just offer it to everyone.”

The program doesn’t come without some risk. Hansen said there is the chance that someone could come to town, collect the money and leave, either by choice or because of a loss of a job.

“You can’t completely remove the risk, but we’re going to try to mitigate those concerns,” he said.

EDA board member Ron Koopman shared his concern about offering the program to renters who because they don’t own a home would be more apt to leave town after collecting the money.

“I think a renter would be riskier,” Koopman said. “You don’t know about renters — they might be here 90 days, then they’re gone. What happens if someone is on the job for 30 days then he’s fired? I’m not saying it’s a bad idea, but there’s a risk there.”

EDA board member Daren Pedersen said getting some “bonus” money right away would go a long way to helping a new family with bills associated with moving to a new town.

“If you had that little extra bonus … if it’s a younger family that needs help moving, they’ve got expenses,” he said.