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Alabama city hatches plan to attract America’s most brilliant STEM workers

Tennessee River in Decatur, Alabama (Photo: Steve Driskell)
Tennessee River in Decatur, Alabama (Photo: Steve Driskell)

DECATUR, Ala. — With the competition for the country’s top STEM (science, technology, engineerings and mathematics) workers heating up, one Alabama city is trying to position themselves as the most attractive option for recent graduates.

Decatur, Alabama has launched the nation’s first “comprehensive incentive package” for STEM young professionals through what the city’s business leaders have dubbed the “Best & Brightest Initiative.”

Benefits for participants in the privately funded program include:

• Student Loan Repayment: Up to $15,000 of student loan repayment, payable at $3,000 per year for each year an accepted applicant lives in the Decatur, Alabama city limits.
Mentoring: Ongoing mentoring from community leaders.
Community Involvement: Community involvement options at the Board and other influential levels through our extensive non-profit network and civic organizations.
Networking: Networking opportunities with employers, peers, and colleagues

According to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, “economic projections point to a need for approximately 1 million more STEM professionals than the U.S. will produce at the current rate over the next decade if the country is to retain its historical preeminence in science and technology.”

Because certain STEM fields have a shortage of workers, the competition over those individuals is intense.

Decatur already has a leg up when it comes to recruiting top talent, thanks to the fact that its engineers make an average of of $96,229 a year but only pay an average of $589 a month in rent.

On top of that, the city’s budding cultural scene has become an attraction of its own, something the Best & Brightest initiative is making part of its recruiting pitch.

“Decatur is an accessible outdoors community on the Tennessee River that is home to an
emerging arts and music scene, Fortune 500 companies, multiple running/biking trails, award-winning restaurants, specialty shops, and high-end Downtown lofts now under construction,” they said in a release. “Our low cost of living, relaxed pace of life, and access to job opportunities appeal to young professionals who already live here.”

Approximately 55,000 people currently call Decatur home. Other STEM graduates who are interested in joining them are encouraged to visit BestandBrightestDecatur.org. The program is taking applicants now.