Remember when Tulsa, Oklahoma offered $10,000 to remote workers who’d relocate to their city?
It was an immensely popular program. “You have better odds of getting into Harvard or Yale than you do of getting into the Tulsa Remote program,” the city’s mayor told CityLab:
All of the Remoters get a free one-year membership to the coworking space, though others prefer to work at home, perhaps because for some of them, home is a luxury apartment building downtown where they receive subsidized rent — another part of their welcome package…
A year after Tulsa Remote launched, the first participants — a mix of expats from expensive coastal cities, wanderlusty young adults, and those with roots in the region — say they’ve found many of the things they were looking for: a more comfortable and affordable quality of life, new neighbors they like, enough of an economic cushion to ease the stress of buying new furniture, and a fresh start. Many say they’ll stick around past the end of the one-year program. More than that: Some of them tell stories of positive personal transformation that are so dramatic, they might appear too perfect, almost canned. But after checking in with participants over the course of eight months, I found that many of them remained just as effusive. Maybe it’s something about Tulsa. Or maybe it’s something about Tulsa Remote…
One “Remoter,” as they’re called in the Tulsa program, is a Harlem Globetrotter. Another runs an online finance site, helping people maximize their credit points. Others work in education, and online marketing, and consulting, and media. Of the 100 participants who were originally selected, 70 accepted [program director] Bolzle’s offer, and two left within a few months of arriving to the city…
At least 25 participants from the first Tulsa Remote cohort have purchased property in the city, Bolzle says. One bought a $700,000 house… The endgame of Tulsa Remote is that these residents will help build a flourishing new economic ecosystem in town; they’ll start families and launch start-ups and tell their friends to come join them. There’s a “multiplier effect” expected of a project like this, even if the workers aren’t employed by Tulsa-based companies, said Pamela Loprest, a senior fellow and labor economist in the Income and Benefits Policy Center at the Urban Institute. “They’ll create other jobs and [draw] other people into that area…”
Even a few participants who had initially told me they wanted leave when the program ended have now changed their minds.
Other states are trying variations on the idea, including Vermont, northwest Alabama, and Topeka, Kansas. “It used to be that talent went where the jobs were,” the program’s executive director tells them, but “That’s shifting.” The article notes that new development downtown — including a $465 million riverfront park — “seems engineered to look like a Millennial playground. The problem, says Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum, is there just aren’t enough people to play in it…”
“Now, the program’s executive director says, it’s the responsibility of cities to create a community that someone would want to call home, and make sure people know to move there…”
Read more of this story at Slashdot.