Oklahoma

It's like The Grapes of Wrath, only the opposite. Plus, 7 other things worth your time.

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A couple of years ago the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma started a program where they’d pay people $10,000 to move there, provided they could keep working remotely for out-of-state companies.

I’m always on the lookout for interesting things to write about—so I did. It was a bit of a quirky idea, which is always good for drawing my attention (although it’s one that’s been replicated quite a few other places since).

Also, it was right after Amazon had gone through the whole HQ2 scheme, and I realized that Tulsa’s budget of $10,000 in incentives per worker was actually a fraction of what New York, Virginia, and Tennessee had offered to pay.

Oh, and I had also written another quirky story about Oklahoma, about a study that called it the most polite state in the nation. That one went viral—not without some elbow grease on my part—and I wanted to see if I could make lightning strike twice.

(I told that story here, actually, in one of the first editions of Understandably.)

Anyway, flash-forward two years, and suddenly this $10,000-per-worker story turns serious—in a good way.

Because the program is still going strong. More than 20,000 people have applied from all over the world, and 400 were actually accepted and moved to the city.

That’s a 2 percent acceptance rate, which makes it about twice as hard as getting into Harvard University.

More impressive, even, is that after their one-year, $10,000 grants ran out, 397 of the 400 people who were accepted into the Tulsa Remote program (application here, if you’re curious) stayed in the city.

“Our members vote, they buy houses here, but they also volunteer in numerous activities,” Ben Stewart, interim executive director of the program, told CNN. “That's the secret to Tulsa Remote's success, that community integration element. We really want people to see themselves in Tulsa for the long haul and get to know and enjoy Tulsa. Our goal is that they become life long Tulsans.”

A study released in October suggested that between 14 and 23 million working Americans say they think they’ll relocate because they’re now able to work remotely, post-pandemic.

That’s a huge number, so we shall see, but it’s what people say.

Largely that migration story is about people going from big cities and either to smaller cities (like Tulsa!) or to the suburbs or more rural areas.

Hmmm, moving from big cities — say in California for example, to Oklahoma. You know that makes me realize? This story is like The Grapes of Wrath in reverse.

And not just geographically (including quite a few Californians, apparently). But also because in Steinbeck’s kind-of-based-on-truth 1936 novel, the protagonists have no bargaining power with the economic interests around them.

Obviously there are still a lot of people struggling. But between mobility, and education, and just a higher standard of living in 2020, a lot of people, at least, have power in dealing with employers that our predecessors nearly a century ago couldn’t have imagined.

Hopefully, with a much happier ending.


7 other things worth your time


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