Would you leave the Bay Area and move to Oklahoma for $10,000? Hundreds of remote workers are trying to

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ByDavid Louie KGO logo
Tuesday, September 8, 2020
Would you leave the Bay Area and move to Oklahoma for $10K?
Move to Oklahoma for $10,000? Hundreds of Bay Area remote workers are trying to do just that and for many it's not just about the money

TULSA, Okla. (KGO) -- Remote work has given people freedom to move to the suburbs or even across state lines, where housing and living costs might be cheaper.


It also inspired a city in Oklahoma to capitalize on that trend, targeting tech workers in the Bay Area. It's called "Tulsa Remote" and it's succeeding.

It's an example of the changing workplace that we're focusing on all this week as we Build A Better Bay Area.

Floors and floors of empty high-rise offices reflect how many people are working remotely. Tulsa, Oklahoma is doing all it can to lure them away.

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"Honestly, I had to look at a map. I go, where is Tulsa, Oklahoma?" confessed fourth-generation San Franciscan Stephanie Robesky.

She came across this website, www.tulsaremote.com. It offers $10,000 in cash to remote workers who relocate within six months. The initiative is funded by the George Kaiser Family Foundation.

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"It is a bit of a leap of faith," said Ben Stewart, the foundation's interim executive director. "However, we have succeeded with over 20,000 applications from every state in the union."

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There's more than $10,000 on the table. There's even work space available at a facility called 36 Degrees North as you settle in and look for an apartment or house to rent.

Tulsa says it has almost reached its goal of attracting 250 remote workers this year. Half of the applicants have never set foot in Tulsa.

"Do they have a Trader Joe's or a Whole Foods?" wondered Stephanie. "You know, I wasn't ready to give up all of my amenities of the Bay Area, like ethnic food. So I came with an open mind, but still thinking it's probably not gonna work out."

After a quick visit to Tulsa, Stephanie was hooked, impressed by meeting the mayor and city staff at a reception. Newcomers seemed welcome -- unlike treatment in other cities.

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Here's a big difference. She purchased this four bedroom, three-bath house for $285,000. Her rent-controlled apartment in San Francisco was $2,700 a month and now rents for $4,500.

Bay Area friends had to pay over $2 million more for a similarly-sized house. She continues to work for an Oakland-based company remotely.

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"We've had 40 plus homes purchased thus far, and we believe that that is a strong indicator for peoples' likelihood to stay," said foundation executive Stewart. Only two people have given up after moving to Tulsa.

Tulsa doesn't always succeed. The community made a big play to woo Elon Musk to build a new Tesla plant there, even putting Musk's likeness on its landmark oil worker statue, called the Golden Driller.

The city of 400,000 lost the Tesla bid to Austin. Still, transplants say they love its parks, arts and culture scene, and restaurants. Especially the lower cost of living.

"No regrets?" we asked Stephanie. "No regrets," she responded without hesitation. However, she admitted. "I do miss my sushi in San Francisco."

See more stories and videos about Building a Better Bay Area here.