A national workforce recruiting campaign unveiled Monday by the Little Rock Regional Chamber offers former residents and out-of-state workers with Arkansas connections $10,000 in cash incentives to relocate to the city.
The campaign offers a custom job match based on a worker's skills and the needs of a growing list of more than 30 employers that have partnered with the chamber on the initiative. Called "Little Rock Love Connection," it builds on the "Love, Little Rock" economic development campaign launched by Stone Ward and the city in 2017.
Jay Chesshir, president and CEO of the chamber, said the campaign has been in development for the past year, during which time the labor market has remained historically tight. Part of the process was surveying a broad range of companies to find out the top positions they were looking to fill.
Participating employers include Stephens Inc., Simmons Bank, Arvest, Central Arkansas Water, Lexicon Inc., Baptist Health and Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield. They've agreed to pay workers who relocate $5,000; the remaining $5,000 is paid after the employee completes one year on the job, and it comes from a $1 million fund established by an unnamed benefactor.
Curtis Barnett, president and CEO of Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield, said the company hopes the campaign will help it fill mid- to high-level positions, especially in information technology and data analytics. "We see this national initiative as an important supplement to our existing talent recruitment efforts, allowing us to proactively market and target qualified talent ... Starting this collaborative approach with the chamber and more than 30 other companies will allow us to reach a much broader audience that we can't reach just on our own," he said Monday.
Job candidates will be actively targeted online for at least the first three months of the campaign. Lesley Byram, senior brand manager at Stone Ward, said the campaign will cast a "pretty wide net," going out to hundreds of thousands of people each day. A candidate might be someone who has family members in the state, attended school in Arkansas, or has taken a nonstop direct flight to Little Rock.
The campaign also offers Little Rock residents a $501 cash incentive for successful referrals, which Byram said should help the campaign grow organically.
The chamber said it will connect new arrivals with resources and support networks, including realtors, volunteer opportunities and networking events to help them acclimate to their new home and build lasting relationships.
Little Rock's recruiting push follows a Northwest Arkansas Council campaign that launched a few years ago and offers similar incentives. The council's Life Works Here initiative came with an initial offer of $10,000 in cash and a bicycle for certain workers who relocated to the area. The offer later expanded to include free bitcoin, or a free membership to regional attractions, such as the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
The council's campaign made headlines for targeting workers in Austin, Denver, Seattle and other big cities with billboards that promised cheaper housing costs, less traffic and strong quality-of-life amenities.