Workers incentivized to relocate to Tulsa bring a near-14x return in new local earnings
Washington, D.C. — The nation’s largest remote worker relocation initiative, Tulsa Remote, is expected to contribute $62 million in new local labor income, or earnings, to the Tulsa, Oklahoma, economy by year’s end. The program is projected to add approximately 5,000 jobs to the area by 2025 on its current growth trajectory, according to a new Economic Innovation Group (EIG) analysis released today.
“How Tulsa Remote is Harnessing the Remote Work Revolution to Spur Local Economic Growth,” is the first study to analyze the economic impact of the country’s leading remote worker incentive program. The report’s findings suggest that such initiatives can play a potent role in local economic development strategies and help level the playing field in the national competition for talent.
Tulsa Remote offers a $10,000 grant and additional services to eligible remote workers who move to Tulsa to live and work for at least one year. Launched in November 2018 and supported by George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF), the program has brought more than 1,200 remote workers to the city through November 2021.
EIG’s analysis finds that for every dollar invested in relocating the initial cohort of remote workers present at the start of 2021, there is an estimated $13.77 return in new local earnings in Tulsa. In addition, for every two remote workers who relocated to Tulsa, a third job was created in the local economy.
“Remote work is an emerging frontier in economic development,” said EIG President and CEO John Lettieri. “Covid-19 has accelerated the untethering of home from the workplace for a large share of the labor market. This report illustrates how cities can harness that trend in attracting a mobile and high-capacity workforce to fuel local economic growth.”
“Remote work is a ‘general-purpose’ technology now and it works,” said Adam Ozimek, Chief Economist at Upwork and a member of EIG’s Economic Advisory Board. “Regions that boast lower costs of living, affordable housing, and higher quality of life are discovering new ways to compete for mobile talent and are turning to remote work incentive programs to lure valuable knowledge economy workers.”
“I see the value that the Tulsa Remoters are bringing to community initiatives and efforts. Not only do these new Tulsans bring additional income to the city, but they bring a sense of commitment and engagement as we work to build a more resilient city. I think that’s exciting and incredibly positive,” said Kian Kamas, Executive Director at Tulsa Authority for Economic Opportunity.
Key Findings from EIG’s report:
- The Tulsa Remote program is estimated to contribute $62 million in new labor income, or earnings, to the local economy in 2021.
- New employment based in Tulsa in 2021 as a result of the program is approximately 592 jobs, comprised of 394 relocated remote jobs belonging to program members and 198 newly created local jobs.
- An estimated $13.77 boost in new local labor income was created for every dollar spent on the relocation incentive.
- On average, approximately one new job was created in Tulsa and one additional household member moved for every two remote workers who relocated.
- The median income of program members was $85,000, while the average was just over $104,600. Fully 88 percent of program members have at least a bachelor’s degree, and nearly one-third of members work in the knowledge-intensive information or professional and scientific services industries.
- On its current growth trajectory, in 2025, the Tulsa Remote program is expected to add approximately $500 million in new local earnings and support upwards of 5,000 jobs, including thousands of relocated remote workers and at least 1,500 newly created full-time equivalent local jobs to support them.
Tulsa Remote’s promising early returns can offer lessons for other places and stakeholders considering similar strategies:
- Tulsa Remote provides more than a financial incentive; it is a full-bodied program that incorporates careful candidate screening and a number of initiatives designed to help with retention and community building.
- The program directly addresses specific gaps–namely low population growth and lagging growth in high-tech, high-wage industries–in the local economy by attracting new, prime working age residents with valuable skills and strong entrepreneurial potential.
- Tulsa Remote is emblematic of an economic development initiative that leans into technological change and finds opportunity in current transformations in the workplace. That inclination left Tulsa Remote well-positioned to capitalize on the pandemic-induced rise in remote working.
Many factors make Tulsa Remote unique, including its large scale, its sponsorship through a local foundation, and its backdrop in a mid-sized city that has put place-making and quality of life at the heart of its economic development strategy. Open questions remain whether the program can maintain its high retention rates, and it is too soon to tell whether and how the remote workforce will catalyze further economic development and local innovation. These considerations are reason to interpret these findings into Tulsa Remote’s early economic impact–and what the findings imply about the potential of other such schemes launched around the country–cautiously. Remote worker incentives are not a panacea in the modern competition for talent but should be viewed instead as a potentially powerful and complementary tool nested within broader development strategies.
“There is now evidence that well-designed remote worker incentives deployed in the right context can shape up to have a meaningful local economic impact,” said EIG’s Research Director, Kenan Fikri.
Read the full EIG report, an independent analysis made possible through the generous support of GKFF.
About the Economic Innovation Group (EIG)
The Economic Innovation Group (EIG) is a bipartisan public policy organization dedicated to forging a more dynamic and inclusive American economy. Headquartered in Washington, DC, EIG produces nationally-recognized research and works with policymakers to develop ideas that empower workers, entrepreneurs, and communities.