I run Tulsa Remote, which pays people to move to Oklahoma. Here's how the investment has benefited our city.

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  • Ben Stewart is the executive director of relocation program Tulsa Remote in Tulsa, Oklahoma. 
  • The program brings remote workers to Tulsa by providing $10,000 grants and communal opportunities.
  • Here’s what Tulsa Remote has done for the city so far, as told to writer Perri Ormont Blumberg.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Ben Stewart, the 36-year-old executive director of Tulsa Remote and a senior program officer at the George Kaiser Family Foundation. It has been edited for length and clarity.

I’ve been running Tulsa Remote since 2020, and I oversee a team of 20. For a native Tulsan, this is a dream job — the opportunity to contribute to the city, create opportunities for other Tulsans, and show the world what we have to offer. 

As the GKFF team looked at our overarching goal of a vibrant and inclusive Tulsa community, we saw an interesting trend: Once people experienced Tulsa, they liked it. How could we do more of that? Tulsa Remote is an audacious experiment to give people the opportunity to build a meaningful life within our community.

Investing directly in people is a paradigm shift in the world of economic development

Beyond the tangible economic benefits we’re seeing, the program has helped create an undeniable sense of community, engagement, and pride as we all watch Tulsa prosper.

Tulsa Remote is just the beginning — we’re continuing to create new methods for investing directly in individuals. We’ve built educational programs to provide a path into the technology industry through Holberton Tulsa, a software-engineering school. We’re also building a more robust local entrepreneurial community through Atento Capital, Build in Tulsa, and 36 Degrees North.

Perhaps one of the most visionary programs is the work of Tulsa Innovation Labs to build an innovation ecosystem focused on virtual health, energy, advanced aerial mobility, cybersecurity, and analytics. As these strategies have grown in size and scale, the need for tech talent in Tulsa has grown dramatically over the last few years. InTulsa was created to match talented individuals to job opportunities in the city.

Tulsa is a perfectly-sized community — big enough to have all the assets of a major city but with the small-town charm that allows tech and innovation to connect cohesively

The skyline of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Courtesy of Tulsa Remote

In my dual role running the Tulsa Remote program along with talent and economic development initiatives at GKFF, my day is often filled with impactful intersections of these bodies of work.

In a practical sense, this could mean talking to students at the Holberton School or working with the team at Atento Capital to invest in entrepreneurs who’re building a company in Tulsa. We’re proud to say that some of our Tulsa Remote members are among the founders Atento has funded.

A typical day also means working with the Tulsa Remote team to plan for the future of the program. We’re proud of the value that our 1,300 talented and creative members have brought to Tulsa and want to ensure we continue to offer our members the best possible community experience through events, happy hours, professional-development opportunities, and new initiatives.

Our homeownership initiative is an outcropping of this sort of planning effort. Launched in February, it allows members to utilize our relocation incentive as a lump sum instead of getting paid every month across their year’s participation to assist with the down payment on a home.

Because Tulsa was the first to launch a remote-worker relocation program, I spend a lot of time meeting with cities and states that have launched or are looking to launch similar initiatives

Centennial Park in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Courtesy of Tulsa Remote

Rather than viewing the remote-worker relocation space as a competitive category, we firmly believe that collaborating and sharing successes will expand opportunity in the heartland and ultimately drive better options for individuals. We’ve formed particularly good relationships with the programs in Northwest Arkansas and West Virginia

Together, we share ideas on how to scale our programs, better support and advocate for remote work, and identify new ways the heartland and rural regions can leverage this shift in work to fuel meaningful economic growth. We share best practices on everything from creating meaningful community programming to recruiting talent.

A lot of our conversations as of late have been centered around the future of work and the unique ways our region can support remote workers compared to other markets.

A Harvard Business School professor wrote a case study on Tulsa Remote, and the team recently went to teach it to first-year MBA students 

In addition, the team has developed an economic impact analysis through a partnership with Washington DC-based Economic Innovation Group, which recently released a report on Tulsa Remote’s economic impact on the city. This is the first time a remote-worker relocation program in the US has been analyzed for the way it contributes to a local economy.

EIG’s analysis has found:

  • An estimated $13.77 boost in new local labor income, or earnings, was created for every dollar spent on Tulsa Remote’s relocation incentive.
  • Tulsa Remote is estimated to add $62 million in new local earnings in 2021 — $51.3 million directly attributable to relocated remote workers and $10.7 million from the employment boost generated in the local economy.
  • On average, approximately one new job was created in Tulsa and one additional household member moved for every two remote workers who relocated.
  • On its current growth trajectory, in 2025, the Tulsa Remote program is expected to add approximately $500 million in new local earnings.
  • Four in 10 of our members have plans to start an entrepreneurial endeavor in Tulsa.

These numbers show that Tulsa Remote is more than a headline-grabbing experiment but rather a significant economic engine that could change the way heartland communities fuel growth.

And best of all, we’re seeing that moving to Tulsa and participating in our community has been additive to our members’ lives — so much so that 88% choose to stay in Tulsa beyond their one-year commitment.