(TNS) — A program to lure remote workers to Tulsa with a $10,000 grant now lets recipients spend that money on buying a home.
The program offered by Tulsa Remote builds on the organization's goal of attracting people from other states and developing a workforce that doesn't rely only on local job creation.
It's the latest example of Oklahoma's drive to put itself on the map, at least to tech-centric startups, engineers and other highly skilled workers. Three startup founders recently told The Oklahoman that living here has tangible and intangible benefits compared to more well-known tech hubs like Austin or Silicon Valley in California.
Podchaser founder Bradley Davis moved to Oklahoma City from Kentucky in part because he was impressed by the opportunity to help build an ecosystem in a mid-size city. "I think it's just a common millennial feeling; you want to be part of something, part of a movement, part of a growth story," Davis said. "While places like New York or San Francisco are awesome, full of smart people, you really can't have a significant impact on the growth of a city that's already matured."
And while Oklahoma's largest metro area has the Innovation District and is the home of Techlahoma, a techy collective of young professionals, Tulsa is vying to take market share of the incoming workforce with its cash-based incentive.
Two years ago, state lawmakers also entered the fray by offering a $2,200 tax credit for software or cybersecurity employees who have a bachelor's degree.
Tulsa Remote recipients will get a lump-sum grant of $10,000 once they buy a home in Tulsa. Previous grants were doled out over time as a stipend to augment salaries, an option remains available for people accepted into the program.
"We moved from Austin to Tulsa a little over a year ago and have been thrilled with our decision," said Taylor Brown, chief technology officer at You Need A Budget and Tulsa Remote member. "My wife and I were looking for a place to raise our son and Tulsa has been a great fit for our family. Tulsa Remote helped welcome and connect us to the city from the day we arrived."
Tulsa Remote was launched three years ago by the George Kaiser Family Foundation. It aims to build a thriving community of remote workers in Tulsa, offering social and networking opportunities, group activities, connections to local volunteering, civic engagement opportunities and more.
Home ownership builds on this mission by helping Tulsa Remote members establish long-term roots in neighborhoods throughout the city, the organization said.
Move Here, Make Money
To receive the full cash grant towards a home purchase, accepted members must purchase an owner-occupied residential property in Tulsa and will receive a single lump sum upon the completion of the home purchase. Tulsa Remote also offers virtual and in-person visits for members to get acquainted with neighborhoods, amenities and locations that will fit their lifestyle, including a $500 travel reimbursement.
Airbnb is also partnering with Tulsa Remote to help members "try before they buy" with a $150 Airbnb coupon for a stay in the Tulsa neighborhood of their choice.
"This new program makes home ownership more attainable for many program applicants," said Sofia Noshay with Tulsa Remote. "With greater flexibility in how to apply the $10,000 grant, it not only gives members the opportunity to reach long-term financial goals but also establishes them in our community through home ownership and immediate connection with our network."
Applications and more information on Tulsa Remote can be found at TulsaRemote.com. To be eligible for the program, individuals must be a permanent resident of the United States, show consistent income, be at least 18 years of age, currently live outside of Oklahoma with the ability to work remotely and commit to moving to and living in Tulsa for at least one year.
In previous years, Tulsa Remote had an application deadline and a limited number of applications, but in 2019 the program began a continuous application and admission process with no limits, said Executive Director Ben Stewart.
To date, more than 50,000 people have applied. Remote workers from Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and other Fortune 500 companies have resettled through the program.
"Since Tulsa Remote launched in 2018, we were blown away by both the quantity and quality of our applications," Stewart said. "Tulsa Remote has now welcomed more than 600 people to Tulsa and more significantly, retained over 90 percent of members by integrating them into the broader Tulsa community through activities which introduce members to Oklahoma, provide coworking space in partnership with 36 Degrees North and offer community volunteer and service opportunities."
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