What Tulsa and other cities are doing to woo remote workers away from Silicon Valley

Cities that have prepared for a remote-first economy are now reaping returns. Yes, even cities way off the silicon grid like Tulsa, OK. Perhaps, just perhaps, it’s now “Tulsa Time,” as Don Williams once sang (and which Eric Clapton more famously covered), for Tulsa and other cities like it.

In the US, the unemployment rate currently hovers at 6.9%, according to the US Department of Labor; of course, depending on how you define employment, the rate might be much higher. For example, according to data published on Axios, if you define an unemployed person as someone “looking for a full-time job that pays a living wage who can’t find one,” the effective unemployment rate in the US is 26.1%. Regardless of how we define the overall job market, the unemployment rate for computer-related occupations dropped from 3% in January 2020 to 2.5% in May 2020, based on data from the US Department of Labor.

Lots of demand. Little supply.

Unsurprisingly, Linkedin’s report for August shows that software-related positions comprise up to four of the top five remote jobs (Figure A). All you really need for most such jobs is a computer and a good connection to the internet. Across the US, the pre-pandemic American economy had 918,000 unfilled IT jobs, according to CompTIA. The suspension of H-1B visas, which were used to fill many computer-related job openings, now makes the market for software talent even tighter.

On the positive side, as the pandemic forced companies to allow remote working, it opened up a whole new set of hiring opportunities for businesses: They no longer have to look for talent locally. Shelter in place takes us further from our coworkers but close to anyone who has an internet connection.

While companies have been opening offices where there is talent, this trend will extend to individuals remotely distributed, even outside the confines of tech hubs. Some cities bet years ago that the trend towards hiring remote talent would grow and are now strategically placed to reap the employment results.

Tulsa, OK isn’t a tech center–heck, it’s not even the center of Oklahoma (that would be Oklahoma City). With a population of just over 400,000, Tulsa may seem like an unlikely place to welcome a new generation of WFH tech workers, but the city has been preparing for this reality for some time. Since 2018, the Tulsa Remote program has offered remote workers moving to Tulsa $10,000 in cash, a desk at a local co-working space, and help finding housing. Led by the local George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF), its executive director, Ken Levit, decided to take a people-centric approach to reinvent the local economy.

The foundation is partnering with several institutions training talent in fields that are high in demand. They brought the Holberton School of software engineering (founded in San Francisco by two young French software engineers) to train Silicon Valley-grade developers in Tulsa and opened its campus there last January. They also partnered with Foundry College, which provides months-long training programs for high in-demand skills such as Salesforce administrators.

Tulsa is not only a place where you can find talent; there is also a likelihood that you will not need to pay as much as equivalent talent would expect in large cities. The median home price in Tulsa is approximately $136,000 compared to approximately $630,000 in New York City.

With a low cost of living, GKFF is also making sure that the quality of life is good. One of its many initiatives is a 100-acre and $500 million investment in Gathering Place, a park that allows Tulsans to unwind. As Michael Basch, a GKFF Advisor, said in an interview, “before the pandemic, people wanted space, but now they need space.” The pandemic is taking a toll on the remote workforce, and outside activities are a great way for people to relax. Read more via TechRepublic