This month Dean and I had the privilege of attending the International Economic Development Council’s Annual Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. The four-day conference is the largest yearly gathering of economic development professionals from across the country and around the world. The event offered distinguished keynote speakers along with numerous breakout sessions offering many options on where to spend our time.
One of the sessions that really intrigued me was a fresh marketing program launched by the city of Tulsa. I was aware of their new program launch and inspired by the creativity but enjoyed learning more details at the conference. Aaron Bolzle, the Executive Director of Tulsa Remote, a marketing program launched in 2019 in order to generate publicity for the city and bring in new residents, spoke to our group about the program’s success.
Launched in November 2019 by the George Kaiser Family Foundation, the Tulsa Remote program paid out-of-state residents $10,000 to pickup and move to Tulsa. The program was expected to bring in around 1,000 applicants and hopefully bring 50 people to Tulsa. They received nearly that many in one day with inquiries from more than 200 countries and all 50 states. Tulsa Remote decided to cap the number of applicants at 10,000 and ultimately accepted 100 applicants. “They were still flooding in when we cut it off,” said Bolzle. Often, cities or states will incentivize companies to move to their area but not always the talent itself. With its wild success (and positive feedback from those who took advantage of the program), Tulsa Remote will soon launch for 2020 and extend 250 invites.
“The goal of the program,” he said, “is to get people to feel comfortable and understand why Tulsa is a special place and ultimately call Tulsa their forever home.” Tulsa may not have had any negative connotations for anyone looking to move, but it also may not have been on their radar. It may simply just not be where someone would think to pack up and move.. Until hearing of this incentive. Bolzle talked about his personal experience with an opportunity to live and work anywhere. One of his past positions was working for Apple in California and although he could live and work in California, he also had the option of working remote and actually preferred to work elsewhere because of California’s higher real estate market and the hustle bustle. He mentioned that at the time, a program like this would’ve sparked his interest as a young, remote professional.
For Tulsa, not only does the program introduce people to the city and bring in new residents, but it also increases diversity, creates additional local jobs as these new residents may hire additional help, and if they decide to stay, helps the housing market as many new residents would end up purchasing or constructing homes and growing their family in Tulsa. The benefits go beyond increasing the population.
The state of Vermont was actually one of the first to also initiate a program similar to Tulsa Remote where they pay new residents to move there as long as they’re employed by an organization outside of Vermont (working remote). Many states are also offering land incentives for those who choose to move there and build a home.
Bolzle explained that it wasn’t necessarily just the money that made them move… it was the money that sparked or gave applicants the idea but it was Tulsa that got them to stay.
Does your job give you the ability to move anywhere? Would you relocate to a city that may or may not have been on your radar for $10,000?