Have you ever considered moving to Tulsa, Oklahoma to start a business? Are you a freelancer or solopreneur who can work from anywhere? Even if you’ve never thought about Tulsa as a destination for your business, the city recently made national headlines with a new economic development program called “Tulsa Remote,” which is offering $10,000 payments to remote workers, solopreneurs and freelancers who agree to move to Tulsa for a year.
Oklahoma ranks as the #5 best state to start a business, but Tulsa’s strategy is unique. Instead of the usual methods of giving money to corporations in the form of economic development grants or tax breaks, they are subsidizing entrepreneurial people directly and inviting them to move to the city. The goal is to make Tulsa a more attractive place for entrepreneurs, recruit some new talent to the city, and hopefully make a positive difference for the entire city’s economy and culture.
So would you consider starting a business or relocating your business to Tulsa, Oklahoma if you could be guaranteed a payment like this?
The first year of Tulsa Remote is already underway, with $10,000 grants disbursed to 100 people ($1 million total). These recipients were selected from 10,000 applicants who wanted to move to Tulsa as part of the program – only 1% of applicants were chosen, making this a highly selective endeavor. In fact, the Tulsa Remote program has a lower acceptance rate than Harvard Business School (9% acceptance rate). Apparently, it is now harder to get into Tulsa than it is to get into Harvard!
You Can Work Anywhere and Live in Tulsa
The recipients of the Tulsa Remote program grants work in a variety of industries and jobs, ranging from property managers to tech workers to writers...and even a member of the Harlem Globetrotters! Many entrepreneurs and remote workers in the program do not necessarily work or have clients in Tulsa, but they wanted to live in a smaller city with a friendly climate and welcoming people.
When you’re deciding where to start a business or expand a business, it's important to consider what factors are important to you. Does the idea of moving to a smaller city in a lower-cost part of the country sound appealing? What if you could reduce your housing costs or enjoy a slower pace of life, while still running your online business and keeping your customers happy from a laptop? In the era of location-independent work, online freelancing, digital nomads and the on-demand gig economy, it seems like Tulsa’s strategy might pay big dividends.
It's Making a Difference in the Community
The Tulsa Remote program doesn’t just offer a $10,000 check – it includes free coworking space, special networking opportunities and community programs. Tulsa doesn’t want this million-dollar cohort of talent to just spend a year in the city and then go away; they want these people to be part of the community, get involved in local nonprofit organizations and make a difference.
Some of the best aspects of the Tulsa Remote program are the opportunities for local connections and local leadership. Just because people can run a business online and work remotely doesn’t mean they want to be isolated from their surroundings; people want to be part of a community. This is especially important for entrepreneurs, who thrive on making connections and getting inspired by new ideas and networking.
The Tulsa Remote program is a fascinating experiment for this community-building aspect; Tulsa is really opening itself up to the world and trying to bring some new perspectives to town. Wouldn’t it be great if every city were this proactive about welcoming new people?
Where Will You Go?
Starting a business is a wonderful step to take in your career, because it opens up opportunities for better earning potential, more creative work and a more fulfilling way of life. One of the advantages to being an entrepreneur today — especially if you have an online business as a solopreneur, professional services practitioner, consultant or freelancer — is that you can often live anywhere. Your income as an entrepreneur does not have to depend upon the local economy of one city or town. Being an entrepreneur can give you the freedom to move to another country, move closer to family or move somewhere completely unexpected that you might not have considered before — like Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The Tulsa Remote program is an inspiring initiative with worthy goals. If Tulsa can have a successful experience with this program, look for other cities to emulate them and start recruiting their own cohorts of location-independent remote workers and entrepreneurial talent. The future of business is all about building connections and creating community; it looks like Tulsa is well on their way.
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Ben Gran is a freelance writer from Des Moines, Iowa. Ben has written for Fortune 500 companies, the Governor of Iowa (who now serves as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture), the U.S. Secretary of the Navy, and many corporate clients. He writes about entrepreneurship, technology, food and other areas of great personal interest.