The Northwest Arkansas Council, consisting of business leaders aimed at promoting development in the region, has announced a crypto incentive program to bring in tech professionals and entrepreneurs willing to work remotely.
In a Wednesday announcement, council president and CEO Nelson Peacock said the area would be looking to expand its range of talent in the tech industry by offering $10,000 in Bitcoin (BTC) — roughly 0.23 BTC at the current price of $43,610 — in addition to a bicycle or membership to arts and cultural facilities. The “Bitcoin and a Bike” program, the next stage of the area’s Life Works Here initiative, is specifically aimed at embracing professionals in blockchain-related fields. The program will offer the crypto incentive to qualifying individuals willing to live for at least a year in Northwest Arkansas — presumably close to the cities of Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers and Bentonville.
“Northwest Arkansas is one of the fastest-growing regions in the country, and we’re now seeing more explosive growth in our tech sector,” said Peacock.
“This expanded incentive offer [...] not only embraces the growing trend toward the use of cryptocurrency as a payment option by employers, but also helps increase our pipeline of talent to benefit tech employers, startups, cities, local businesses and the region overall.”
Among the requirements for applicants are the ability to work remotely, moving to the area within six months of acceptance and two years of experience at their current position in the tech industry. Northwest Arkansas is already home to major retailer Walmart’s headquarters in Bentonville — the Walton Family Foundation is contributing to the Bitcoin and a Bike program and Walmart founder Sam Walton was a founding member of the council — as well as the University of Arkansas’ Blockchain Center of Excellence, offering education in blockchain-enabled tech.
“Next-generation talent is essential to further transform our region into a hub for up-and-coming tech innovators and businesses,” said Blockchain Center of Excellence director Mary Lacity.
Many reports have seemingly touted Northwest Arkansas as an alternative to growing tech hubs in the United States like Austin, Texas — while the number of businesses in the city has significantly increased in the last year, the growing interest has led to surging rent and housing costs. It may be premature to observe an exodus to the midwest state, but companies including electric vehicle manufacturer Canoo have announced plans to set up headquarters in the state’s northwest region.
Before and during the pandemic, many mid-sized U.S. cities offered similar programs with cash incentives for transplants to work remotely, seemingly in an effort to promote the local economy. The NWA council started the Life Works Here initiative in November 2020, but Tulsa, Oklahoma was one of the first to offer certain individuals $10,000 to move starting in 2018, with areas of West Virginia, Kansas, Vermont, Connecticut, and Alabama following its lead.
Disclosure: this reporter applied for the Bitcoin and a Bike program.