As anyone who has ever tried to do anything knows, you need money to do stuff. But when I was asked to lead the Tulsa Remote, an experimental program that started in 2018, I quickly learned that there are funds out there that can’t afford any money.
The program is launched on a simple premise: give people a $ 10,000 prize to get a chance in Tulsa, Oklahoma and get there for a year. And it worked: Tens of thousands of people around the world applied. She comes from all walks of life: she is a woman who is starting a second career after decades as investment bankers, opera singers, young couples and successful real estate executives.
Then came COVID-19, and with it, a surge of people moving away from big cities. We in the heartland have been the pioneers of the early years of the epidemic – the Tulsa model has been copied by dozens of other small and medium-sized towns including West Lafayette, Indiana and Beaumont, Texas – but also red – as a hot destination. More than 1,700 remote workers have already moved here, bringing $ 62 million in new revenue to the city and creating about 600 new jobs for Tulson – one for every two newcomers. Even more remarkable, 90% of those who chose to join us stayed beyond the first year mandated by the grant.
Why are these people coming and remaining? You’d be forgiven for thinking the five-digit check had something to do with it, but my new neighbors in Tulsa told me this wasn’t so. Sure, the check is helpful, but you need more than a one-time cash infusion to start life in a new city. Those who relocated soon realized they had earned more than a Chubbier bank account: one of our new neighbors, Trey Sjogren, had a life-changing experience moving to Tulsa, deciding to return the money he received in the form of ten $ 1,000. To help microaggressions, as they say, underestimated people gain skills. “If I knew what I was getting from Tulsa,” he told me recently, “I was paying $ 10,000.”
Why, then, did Sjogren and the thousands of us who joined him find out what is more valuable than money? More than 20 million Americans plan to relocate thanks to the flexibility of remote work, whose answers shed some light on how you should think about where you live.
Find a city that invests in itself
What do most people want from life? It’s not really about size pay – though it’s always good. They want a wonderful park to spend Saturdays with their families, a downtown strip with restaurants and bars, and museums and galleries to relax after work and nourish their soul and imagination.
In Tulsa, we have invested in all of the above because we know you can’t put a return on investment on quality of life. Tulsa has invested a lot: the $ 465 million Waterfront Park spans 66 acres and has award-winning playgrounds. Another is the acquisition of more than 100,000 personal archives to open a new center dedicated to Bob Dylan’s work and creative process. On top of that, the city has invested in a revitalized arts district with hip coffee shops, vegan taco joints, steakhouse speakers, whiskey bars, art galleries, coworking spaces and software-development schools – all of which make the city desirable. A place for young people and families who want to grow.
We know that cities are not abstractions or ideas. They are concrete places that offer concrete experiences, which is ultimately important for anyone contemplating relocation. As you explore cities, ask yourself: Who is this city trying to attract? Is it invested to grow to meet the influx of newcomers? Other towns may have more affordable real estate or better weather, but if you want to find a place that feels like home, you need to find a town that has unique possibilities for its identity – and yours. When it comes to making a livable place, it turns out, no investment can ever be missed.
Find the city that suits you best
How did we get so many people to go to Tulsa? By saying “no” a lot. We said we weren’t for people who weren’t sure, open-minded or curious that they really wanted to pick up and move, and we said great pain to people who radiate a sense of entitlement and tell us clearly, or else, a town like Tulsa is lucky to have them.
With over 50,000 applications, our acceptance rates are similar to those of the Ivy League school. But unlike fancy colleges, we knew our successful applicants wouldn’t be here for a few years. The most mature people in our program are those who want to dive, collaborate and learn from the current residents and establish roots.
For example, when we looked at Obama’s petition, we realized that he was a man of interest in Tulsa because of the possibility of growing a real community. So we weren’t surprised when he was immediately involved in the Tulsa Debate League, found work at a code-teaching school for underprivileged young adults, and starred in the local production of “Dreamgirls” while helping his wife open her own. Restaurant in town.
The same logic applies to those looking for a new city. Sure, it’s nice to have a large living room, a beautiful courtyard or a place to park your car, but it’s ultimately not about life. When you’re thinking of moving, choose somewhere specific to who you are and the work you want to do.
Look at the industries and professional associations of that city and decide if it can give you the growth opportunities you are looking for. Look at its culture and see if it fits you and values the same things you do. If you are a hiker, for example, you may want to choose a place that celebrates and accesses outdoor life rather than a city located hundreds of miles from a nearby national park or forest trail. Choose a community that supports and accelerates professionals like you, that offer opportunities and connections, not just discounts on the cost of living. In relocation, like romance, the right partners make all the difference, so hold on to that special city – don’t go to a place for the most affordable reason and don’t settle for a place that doesn’t share your passions. Short-term adjustments can lead to long-term regret, so wait until you find a new home you really love.
Find a city that is ready to grow
Let me be honest here: When we launched Tulsa Remote, we didn’t have the infrastructure to support the massive, rapid growth we were experiencing soon. We are still building this ship when we set sail, which is why I strongly recommend that anyone planning to attract people outside the entire city be prepared to get real big.
This means devising an application process that captures the most comprehensive demographic data possible to support your members and, among other things, build a sophisticated customer-relationship-management tool to effectively communicate with newcomers and alumni. These actions may seem ambiguous at the project’s larger vision, but soon prove critical.
Any city hoping to attract an influx of new people must invest in everything from basic infrastructures – roads, parking lots, etc. – to cultural institutions and public spaces that make life more pleasant.
People who want to move should ask themselves a bunch of growth-related questions: Is the city the right size for you, or is it already too crowded? Do you spend hours traveling to the office every day because it’s impossible to get a table at your favorite new joint or because the traffic is so bad? Have a clear vision of your priorities, know what you’re willing to sacrifice and what you don’t want to give up, and move on to where you’re ready – and it’s ready for you.
To cities: Remember, other cities are not your competitors
It seems gifted: after all, when a talented person moves from one place to another, does one city lose the advantage while another city does not? The answer is more complicated than that. American life – cultural, economic, etc. – is centered around the coast, and more cities, particularly the middle and smaller, can work in ways that support remote workers, and we can cooperate more with other small cities, particularly for our respective areas and for remote workers across the country in general.
This is why we are advocating for other cities in the country, helping to set up their own programs, and why we have established close relationships with our neighbors in northwest Arkansas and West Virginia, both of which have started remotely – worker incentive programs. We understand that other cities are not our competitors. The more we invest in vibrant, local life, the more likely we are to level the playing field in the US, which will give more people a better career and a better life. This is really a win-win scenario.
Taken together, these lessons tell the same old and true story as the US: money matters, but community – the real thing, vibrant, committed, sustainable and nurturing – is valuable.
Justin Harlan is the Managing Director of Tulsa Remote.