Leaving the Bay Area: Hundreds of remote workers bite on Tulsa's offer to pay them $10,000 to move

TULSA, Okla. (KGO) -- How much money would it take to get you to leave the Bay Area? For hundreds of remote workers, it turns out that their price is $10,000.

Less than two weeks after ABC7 News profiled the Tulsa Remote program, officials say they have been flooded by hundreds of applicants looking to take them up on their offer to move to Oklahoma and work remote in exchange for $10,000.

Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Cisco are just a few of the companies that the applicants work for.

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For some applicants it wasn't all about the money.

"It's too hard to survive here and truly thrive here. And now with everything else we have going on, it's become even more difficult," said Jaleesa Garland, a marketing manager for the e-commerce company Drop.

Garland, a Bay Area native, has already been selected for the Tulsa program. She's already put down a $125 security deposit for an apartment where she will live by herself for the first time since graduation.

"I've lived with about 20 different people over that five year period, so I'm really looking forward to being able to live alone and being able to do so affordably," explained Garland.

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The George Kaiser Family Foundation created the Tulsa Remote program as a way to lure tech workers from around the country to Tulsa.

Even before the pandemic, the program was having great success, receiving over 20,000 applications from every state for just 250 spots.

In the last two weeks, Tulsa Remote applications doubled to over 500, twice the normal volume. Half of those came from California with most of those from the Bay Area.

"Many of these applicants should hear from us and be scheduling a time for a Zoom interview, and we look forward to getting to know them," said Ben Stewart, the foundation's interim executive director.

Stewart also reports that half of all their applicants have never set foot in Tulsa.

"Honestly, I had to look at a map. I go, where is Tulsa, Oklahoma?" confessed fourth-generation San Franciscan Stephanie Robesky. "Do they have a Trader Joe's or a Whole Foods? 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."

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But it did work out.

Robesky took advantage of the program, continuing to work for an Oakland-based company remotely and eventually buying a four bedroom, three-bath house for $285,000. Bay Area friends had to pay over $2 million more for a similarly-sized house.

Garland hopes her story is a similiar one.

"I am going to be making the same exact amount that I make sitting here in Berkeley as I will when I'm in Tulsa, except I'll have $10,000 extra dollars in my pocket."

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