In late August 2020, Aaron Williams and his girlfriend, Mackenzie Saunders, packed up their lives in San Diego, California, and relocated to Tulsa, Oklahoma, as part of a program offering remote workers incentives to move to the city.
Williams is a graphic designer for Fender's Blue Hemp, his family's hemp farm in Oregon. The job doesn't require him to be on the farm, so he's free to work from wherever he wants. That prompted Williams to apply to Tulsa Remote, a one-year program that gives remote workers a $10,000 grant to relocate to the city, along with other perks, such as community events and access to a co-working space.
“Mackenzie and I were thinking about what to do (during the pandemic)," Williams told TMRW. "We always had day jobs in addition to working for the family business, and so the decision was easy for us. It took enough of the pressure off and so we decided to move so we could focus on that.”
While the program launched in November 2018 and predates the coronavirus pandemic, Ben Stewart, executive director of Tulsa Remote, said the number of applications he's received since March 2020 has surged as many offices have shifted to a work-from-home model.
“Since the program's inception we have had over 25,000 applications," Stewart told TMRW. "During the pandemic, the applications have risen dramatically. We have seen nearly 250 people move during the pandemic alone."
Stewart said the program welcomes an average of 60 new people per month and is about to celebrate their 500th member.
Other areas are also rolling out the red carpet to attract diverse new talent.
In November 2020, the Northwest Arkansas Council launched the Life Works Here initiative, which offers $10,000 and a new mountain bike to successful applicants who relocate to Benton or Washington County, a picturesque area surrounded by the Ozarks. The program aims to attract new talent in the fields of science, technology, engineering, arts or mathematics, while also highlighting the outdoor opportunities in Arkansas.
The program is being funded with a $1 million grant from the Walton Family Foundation, the charity started by Walmart founder Sam Walton. The retailer's Bentonville, Arkansas, headquarters is located in the northwest part of the state, where the program aims to attract new talent.
While $10,000 is a headline-grabbing incentive, the program will be competitive.
"We’ll assess the applicants’ skills in relation to our region’s needs, as well as what they can add to our community," the Northwest Arkansas Council says on its website. "We’re not looking for someone who can only do a good job at work. We’re looking for people who will add to the vibrancy of our community."
The Savannah Technology Workforce Incentive in Georgia is offering grants of up to $2,000 to help cover the moving expenses of remote tech workers who move to the city during the pandemic.
Vermont offered a new worker relocation grant until October. A website for the "Relocate to Vermont" program said the offer is currently "fully subscribed," but additional funding will be considered when the legislature reconvenes in 2021.
There are also plenty of incentives to move abroad.
Greece is giving anyone who moves to the country in 2021 a 50% discount on their income taxes for the next seven years.
Barbados is offering a one year "Barbados Welcome Stamp" that lets remote workers stay in the island paradise for an extended period. The application process requires an income of at least $50,000 and a $2,000 fee for the visa or $3,000 for a family.
While a move may not work for everyone, after three months in Tulsa, Williams said he knows he and Saunders made the right choice. They're making friends, exploring the community and can afford to live and do what they love.
"I miss surfing, but there is so much to do outside here," he said. "The cost of living is nice. The city is beautiful. I’m riding my bike all the time. There’s so much opportunity."
This story was originally published Nov. 25, 2020.