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Our Opinion: Incentives to attract young professionals

News Tribune editorial

Some communities seeking to attract young professionals are taking a cue from accepted government economic development strategy.

Offer incentives.

According to Yahoo! News, Alan Farnham of Good Morning America reports efforts under way in New York and Kansas are designed to lure young professionals by offering, among other incentives, repayment of student loans.

Will such efforts catch on here?

In Niagara Falls, N.Y., Community Development Director Set Piccirillo explained the incentive idea was prompted by reports of mounting college debt.

With students in need of debt relief and his city in need of new graduates, Piccirillo proposed the city put $200,000 into a plan to help students repay loans in exchange for specified residency commitments.

The news story also outlines a similar effort undertaken by 50 Kansas counties, which have joined to establish rural opportunity zones.

Qualified graduates may receive income tax waivers for up to five years and/or student loans repayments up to $15,000.

Attracting young professionals is an initiative of the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce, but the initiative does not offer any direct monetary incentives.

Yet.

Area chamber officials were not available for comment.

The slippery slope with these initiatives is not unlike that which occurred with government economic development incentives for businesses.

Despite reluctance to participate in the give-away sweepstakes, governments found it necessary to join the crowd to remain competitive. Do developments in New York and Kansas signal a coming avalanche in tax incentives and loan repayments to attract young professionals? We hope not. Using tax dollars to attract individual residents who meet specific qualifications seems inequitable and elitist. But, bad ideas have been known to become popular. Time will tell.

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