If you’ve been working remotely in the last year, it’s probably crossed your mind you could be doing it from anywhere – not just in the big city. In September 2020, more than 7000 people left Greater Sydney alone to relocate to regional New South Wales, and migration away from Australia’s largest cities has nearly doubled since the September 2019 quarter, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Capitalising on this trend, the City of Newcastle is investing $300,000 into 30 grants aimed at “accomplished entrepreneurs”. The idea is that an influx of creative minds and small businesses will lead to greater employment opportunities for locals, and generate a flow-on effect of interest in the area.

According to council, it’s the first offer of its kind in Australia, modelled on a similar one in the US. Launched in 2018, the Tulsa Remote program offers eligible workers a US$10,000 grant to move to the Oklahoma city. The City of Newcastle is proposing up to 30 one-off financial packages of $10,000, with a caveat that you spend the cash at businesses in the area.

It’s called “New Move”, and City of Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes says it will help boost the local economy.

“Attracting talented people as an economic stimulus strategy provides great value for money,” says Nelmes in a statement. “Independent modelling [shows] that attracting 30 entrepreneurs to the city ... will help create new local jobs and millions of dollars in economic output.”

Each grant recipient is expected to become an ambassador for Newcastle. They’ll need to prove how they’ll generate future employment and demonstrate their community-minded ideas.

“Covid-19 has shown that people can work from anywhere in the world. Increasingly young professionals are choosing smaller but well-connected cities like Newcastle due to their superior lifestyle,” says Nelmes.

So far, more than 300 people have applied for a grant – including those from tech start-ups, financial services and health care. And there’s still time to apply – the closing date is Friday April 23.

Successful grant winners will receive a cash injection, plus ongoing networking opportunities. Deputy Lord Mayor Declan Clausen says Newcastle is a gateway city – “small enough to provide the charms of regional life but big enough to attract international investment”. New Move recipients will “have access to co-working spaces and networking events to build local business and community connections”, he says.

That network of fresh Novocastrians includes former Masterchef contestant Reece Hignell, who upped sticks to Newcastle to open his new shop Cakeboi; Trystan Eeles, co-founder of on-demand ride service Liftango; and Bec Stern, co-founder of colourful homewares company Mustard Made. You can see their stories on the City of Newcastle’s new 10,000 Reasons website.

As well as your new mates, you’ll have the best of the former Steel City’s charms on your doorstep: uncrowded beaches, the largest ocean pool in the Southern Hemisphere, a new natural wine festival, and an emerging cafe and bar scene.