On their website, the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation has a stated mission: to make Anchorage the #1 City in America.
To that end, they’ve created a digital ad campaign to attract remote workers to Anchorage. “Work Anywhere, Live Here” says the landing page, highlighting the amenities the city has to offer and dispelling some of the rumors of the Last Frontier. “The goal is to connect potential remote workers to resources,” says AEDC Director of Strategic Initiatives Emma Irish.
Further down the landing page, a testimonial from Anchorage resident and Google strategist Melissa Moody. Irish says that those in similar lines of work — that is, digital — are most likely to be able to consider Anchorage. “We’re looking at those industries where we know that companies have made announcements that they’ll be moving that direction,” she says. “So probably more like professional office-type jobs.”
To the AEDC, this solution could solve two problems — first, the economic problem caused by the recession. “We know that we’ve been losing population over the last five years, to the tune of about ten thousand or so working-age people,” Irish says. “Attracting more people grows our population base, they buy property here, they shop, they eat out, they contribute to the tax base, so it’s good for that reason.”
The other problem is that there simply aren’t nearly enough Digital-Age professionals living in Anchorage. “One of the things that we hear most often from our member-businesses is that they have a hard time hiring and recruiting skilled professionals,” says Irish. “We’re not only growing the economy by growing the population but we’re expanding our skill sets and inviting new knowledge.”
While Anchorage isn’t quite to the point of paying workers to relocate, like Tulsa, Oklahoma, ($15,000) or Topeka, Kansas ($10,000), neither does Alaska’s largest city appear to be in danger of becoming remote tech’s Next Big Thing like Portland, Oregon, became over the last decade. As that particular city grew in popularity — compounded by its own TV show — population outgrew the available housing, causing skyrocketing rents and an exodus of many from the longtime artistic community.
But here in Anchorage, the type of housing that remote workers are likely to buy is exactly what is most available. “We’re specifically looking at higher wage earners,” says Irish. “Anchorage’s housing market has an influx of higher-value homes and doesn’t really have the same influx of lower-to-median-income homes.”
In a 2014 AEDC housing survey, 68% of those who tried to buy said they backed out because it was too expensive.
Google has said that due to COVID concerns, its employees will continue to work remotely until at least Summer 2021. Several other major tech companies followed suit to varying degrees. And that was before massive wildfires scorched much of the West Coast, leaving the air in much of the Pacific Northwest too toxic to go outside. Anyone with the means to work remotely, and who has been paying attention to climate trends, might see Anchorage as the new Portland for entirely different reasons.
Meanwhile, on the "Work Anywhere, Live Here" landing page, the allure of Anchorage continues: "223 municipal parks and 250 of running, biking and skiing trails, several award-winning eateries, craft breweries, local kombucha, locally roasted coffee and more".
If anything, it makes you want to get out there and enjoy it all before the word gets out about Alaska’s Best-Kept Secret City.