In 2018, with funding from the George Kaiser Family Foundation, Tulsa Remote launched a bold experiment to lure fresh faces from afar to Tulsa for the long haul. A city of approximately 400,000, Tulsa has seen its population plateau due to millennial brain drain in recent years. Enter Tulsa Remote.
The premise behind the initiative was a simple one – offer remote workers from across the country who aren’t location-dependent for their livelihood $10,000 to relocate to Tulsa for a year. Lure them in with cash, subsidized housing, access to co-working space, and an array of growing social perks, then make the pitch on long-term settlement over the course of a year. Now in its third year, the program is roaring.
Executive director Aaron Bolzle sorted through more than 10,000 applications for the 2019 cohort, a marked increase from year one. Bolzle noted the program is looking for very a specific type of applicant – an “intentional participant in the community.” And, importantly, one who will stay.
Of the 100 applicants first selected in 2018, 70 actually made the leap. 25 participants from the first cohort have already purchased property in Tulsa. The application waitlist for 2020 ballooned to more than 12,000, and the group expects anywhere between 250-500 participants to ultimately commit to Tulsa in 2020. While Bolzle freely admitted it could take up to a decade to determine the program’s long-term success, things clearly are off to an auspicious start.