There are several reasons why local candidates have an edge in the neighboring area. With few exceptions, they are more accessible for interviews, offer lower "start-up" costs, regardless of who pays the expense of relocation, can commence employment sooner and offer better job stability/longevity.
Companies spend an enormous amount of money in the recruiting and training of new employees. They are concerned about applicants who have relocated and for some reason decide the area, climate, cost of living etc is not what they expected. Additionally there is a certain risk associated with candidates that do not deliver what is expected by the company. They can suddenly find themselves looking for employment in an area they are totally not familiar with.
These risks are more exacerbated by the soft economy. The years associated with a tight job market when companies were paying full relocation and even signing bonuses seem to be far behind us.
Yes, it will help if you decide to relocate prior to securing a job, however, you still take the risk that it might be several months before you find a new IT position. We know the worse is behind us but we still remain unclear about the near future.
This was first published in October 2002