Student loans as an incentive to move to Niagara Falls

Eve Troeh Jul 3, 2012

Student loans as an incentive to move to Niagara Falls

Eve Troeh Jul 3, 2012

Tess Vigeland: OK, everybody who honeymooned at Niagara Falls stand up. That’s quite a few of you. A lovely spot, to be sure — but you visited, and then you left.

Perhaps you’d be interested in going back, for good? The city of newly betrothed love would love to have you. So much so that it’s willing to pay off some of your student loans. It’s the latest municipality to offer incentives for people to move there. And the city of 51,000 residents says even a small influx will make a big difference.

Marketplace’s Eve Troeh reports.

Eve Troeh: Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster already has more than 200 applications from around the country, for 20 spots. The chosen few will get up to $7,000 to pay back student loans, if they move to Niagara Falls for two years.

While that might not be enough to lure a stranger, it could convince a University of Buffalo alum who’s toyed with the notion of moving back.

Paul Dyster: People that have connections of some sort, family connections or other cultural ties, are very fertile ground.

The mayor says it’s really about housing. Participants will all live near downtown, in an area targeted for development.

Dyster: We think that 20 urban pioneers is probably enough to tip the neighborhood.

It has boosted morale for locals to see Niagara Falls make headlines with the program, including former locals, like Kristen Cascio. Her entertainment job in L.A. won’t allow her to move back, but she says the incentive is more than economic. It’s:

Kristen Cascio: The opportunity to be a part of something.

Since the recession, she says, community is more important to people. Other cities have tried to lure the best and the brightest. Kalamazoo, Mich., famously offered free college tuition for families with kids.

When you add college grads to a town, wages do go up across the board, says Harvard economist Edward Glaeser, author of “Triumph of the City.” But he says cash incentives are not the key to sustainable growth. That takes:

Edward Glaeser: Getting the basics of urban government right. Good schools, safe streets, taxes as low as possible.

Who knows? Niagara Falls’ new residents may help the city do just that.

I’m Eve Troeh for Marketplace.

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