The program, called Tulsa Remote, seeks to relocate 20–25 individuals with location-flexible jobs to the Tulsa area. If you make it through the selection process (which includes an application, an interview, and then a visit), you’ll be the beneficiary of $2,500 to cover your moving costs, $500 each month for housing, and a final $1,500 bonus at the end of your twelve-month stay in Tulsa. Tulsa Remote will also throw in free membership at a local co-working office as the program aims to build community in the city.
$10,000 is nothing to sneeze at. That’s five new MacBooks. Or a new (used) car. Or two hundred meals out on the town. Or two thousand beers.
Am I thinking about applying for this program? Perhaps. Read on, dear reader, to see if I can convince myself to trade Brooklyn for Tulsa.
It is not expensive to live in Tulsa. According to payscale.com, Tulsa’s cost-of-living is 8% below the national average. All things being relative, it’s more meaningful to compare cost-of-living to where you currently live. For me, that’s Brooklyn, New York, which makes Tulsa fully 60% less expensive than the city I live in today.
The median price for a home is $126,000, 32% below the national median. Median rent rests at $757, 21% below the national median. Given that fuel prices are effectively a function of distance from Houston, Texas, it’s no surprise that gas is pretty cheap in Tulsa. Oklahoma state’s tax burden is fairly average: just above 10% when accounting for income, property, sales, and other taxes.
Your newfound $10,000 will go far in Tulsa, make no mistake.
That cash will go particularly far in Tulsa’s real estate market.
If you fall head-over-heels for Tulsa and you’re looking to buy, Tulsa has plenty of lovely homes for sale. For around $250,000, you could pick up one of these Craftsman-like brick beauties:
For a little more money — think $500,000 — you could have this quirky home at 1212 E 20th Street with a pool, geothermal heating and cooling, a two-car garage, and a garage apartment you could rent for some additional income:
If you’re looking to rent, Tulsa has plenty of options, at prices that melt my New-York-calibrated mind. For just over $1,000 a month, you could have a hip loft apartment smack dab in the middle of downtown Tulsa at 20 E Archer St, 310 E 1st St or 401 S Elgin Ave. If you’re looking for something more affordable, I found a duplex outside of downtown for $750 a month or this cute apartment for $550 — and don’t forget, with your new stipend, that apartment will only take $50 from your paycheck.
One final note on real estate in Tulsa; as Tulsa’s growth mostly occurred in the 1920s, newly-wealthy businesses and individuals used their riches to construct new buildings in the style of the time: Art Deco. Tulsa is home to dozens of gorgeous examples of Art Deco architecture of all varieties, from Zigzag and PWA, to Streamline and Deco Moderne. Stick around long enough and you might be able to save one of these treasures for yourself.
You may imagine, as I did, the city of Tulsa smack dab in the middle of a windswept prairie of endless nothingness. You would be wrong.
Dust Bowl, Tulsa ain’t.
Tulsa sits in the northeast corner of Oklahoma called the “Green Country”, right at the base of the Springfield Plateau and part of the Ozark Mountains which cover Arkansas, Missouri, and a little bit of Oklahoma. Natural Falls State Park is nearby, while other natural attractions like Robbers Cave State Park and the Talimena Scenic Drive are a little south and east of Tulsa.
If city parks are more your speed, check out Mohawk Park and the Gathering Place. Mohawk Park, at over 3,000 acres in size, is one of the largest municipal parks in America. Built during the Depression as a CCC/WPA project, Mohawk claims a zoo, a 36-hole golf course, hiking trails and picnic grounds among its attractions. The Gathering Place is Tulsa’s newest park — it only opened this September. Built at an incredible cost of $465 million, the park offers ponds, a boathouse, snacks, a skate park, courts, and something called Volcanoville for toddlers.
It’s Not Just An Oil Town
Once upon a time, Tulsa was known as “the Oil Capital of the World.” Thankfully, there’s plenty else going on in Tulsa. Like any other major city, there are dozens of active industries in the city — over the past decade, Tulsa has diversified its economy, placing particular emphasis on finance, aviation, telecommunications, and technology.
There’s Plenty To Do
Tulsa has two major museums: the Philbrook Museum of Art, located in an old oil baron’s villa, and the Gilcrease Museum, the largest museum about the American West in the country. Tulsa has an opera and a ballet. Tulsa is known as “the Birthplace of Route 66” — local businessman Cyrus Avery was the original promoter of the road from Chicago to Los Angeles.
Tulsa has a strong music culture. Cain’s Ballroom was the birthplace of Western Swing music and is still in operation after nearly 100 years. The Woody Guthrie Center is dedicated to the life and work of the legendary folk musician and will soon be joined by the Bob Dylan Archive. The city is known for its eponymous “Tulsa Sound” which blends rockabilly, country, rock ’n’ roll, and blues.
As for cuisine, Tulsa sits between cow country to the west and pig country to the east, so Tulsa barbecue has a special blend of both cultures. Tulsa BBQ also emphasizes wood flavors from the abundant local forests. Lebanese steakhouses abound. In the fall, the city celebrates a popular Oktoberfest festival. Like many cities across the country, microbreweries seem prepared to outnumber residents any day.
If you need something more, Oklahoma City is only 100 miles away. Among other attractions, OKC has a well-performing NBA team and the world’s largest collection of Chihuly Glass at the Oklahoma City Museum of Modern Art.
There Be Liberals Here
Granted, Tulsa is resolutely Republican. In 2016, 65% of Oklahoma’s vote went for Donald Trump, beating Hillary Clinton’s total by nearly 40%. However, cities are famously biased toward Democratic candidates and Tulsa is no exception. Although 144,000 Tulsans voted for Trump, fully 88,000 voted for Clinton.
Similarly, although 50% of Tulsans report their religion as Protestant (and fully 35% are Evangelical Protestants), 35% of the population reports no religious affiliation whatsoever. Historically, Tulsa was settled by eastern prospectors and not by southerners or Texans seeking their oil riches. Tulsa has more Catholics and Jewish people than other parts of Oklahoma.
Though they may be in a minority, liberals are still a healthy, strong part of Tulsa’s community.
Finally; given Tulsa Remote’s emphasis on attracting a few dozen individuals to move to and stay in Tulsa, you’ve got a good shot at addressing one the hardest parts about moving somewhere new: finding a community. Anyone taking Tulsa on this offer is bound to have at least something in common with the other participants and the people behind Tulsa Remote are bound to try and help you establish a new network of contacts and friends to help you take root in Tulsa. Plus, it can be easier to make friends in a smaller town than, say, the city of over 20,000,000 that I call home.
It’s Still an Oil Town
Although Tulsa is making efforts to grow past its carbon-fueled past, oil and mineral companies remain a major component of the city’s economy. It’s a tough bind: carbon emissions pose an existential threat to the survival of the human race, yet those carbon emissions are part of an economy that supports the health of the city. According to datausa.io, Tulsa specializes in mining-related industries, with more than five times as many people employed by these industries when compared to a typical city. These are high-paying jobs, too, delivering a median wage just above $70,000, well above the city’s median income of $43,000.
Tulsa is still home to the United States Oil & Gas Association, the largest professional group advocating for carbon-based industries. Many international oil and gas-related companies, including Williams Companies, SemGroup, ONE Gas, Syntroleum, ONEOK, Laredo Petroleum, Samson Resources, Helmerich & Payne, Magellan Midstream Partners, WPX Energy, and Excel Energy have headquarters in Tulsa.
If decarbonization succeeds in the coming years, Tulsa’s economy will suffer. If it doesn’t, well, we will all suffer. Tulsa is all-but-guaranteed to feel some pain as our economy transforms in the twenty-first century.
There’s No Transit
With all this focus on the oil economy, it might not be surprising that public transit is not among Tulsa’s strong suits. Tulsa also lacks that all-important accessory for every city on the make in 2018: bike lanes. Tulsa’s airport service also fails to impress. Although Tulsa ranks fairly well for walkability — it ranks #34 of 141 major cities in walkability — you are mostly stuck with a car for transportation in the city.
Finally, there’s little to recommend about Tulsa’s weather. It’s hot during the summer: temperatures rise above 100 degrees for nearly two weeks of the year, on average. The winter is mild, though temperatures fall below freezing overnight in January and February. Worst, though, are the late-spring thunderstorms which can bring hail, strong winds, flooding, and occasionally, tornadoes. An F2 tornado struck Tulsa in 2017, dead in the middle of an August night; around 40 homes and businesses were destroyed and 39 people were sent to the hospital.
The Elected Officials
I’ll set aside a discussion on the merits of the Republican Party in 2018: let’s focus instead on a few specific individuals that represent Oklahoma.
Oklahoma’s senior U.S. Senator, Jim Inhofe, is a climate change denier (a “hoax” according to the senator), looks to the Bible for guidance on America’s policy on Israel, regularly votes against federal aid for natural disasters in other states, authored an eponymous Constitutional amendment to make English the official language of the United States, and supports a Constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Oklahoma’s junior U.S. Senator, James Lankford, opposes the EPA, opposes Obamacare and Medicare, opposes a woman’s right to choose, and earns an “A” from the NRA for his pro-gun opinions and legislative actions.
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin supported the Ten Commandments monument erected on the Oklahoma State Capitol Grounds in 2012. In 2015, Fallin issued an executive order to prevent the Oklahoma Department of Environment Quality from creating an emissions-reduction strategy, the first governor in the country to do so. In 2016, Fallin proclaimed Oilfield Prayer Day and called upon Christians to “thank God for the blessing created by the oil and natural gas industry.” She has prohibited local governments to establish local minimum wages or ban fracking. She has fought with native tribes over water supplies. Her cuts to public schools, made in pursuit of completely eliminating Oklahoma’s income tax, led to a state-wide, nine-day-long strike by teachers. For all this, Fallin is (at least) the least-popular governor in the country with a net 58% disapproval rating.
Whatever solace or community you might find in Tulsa, Tulsa is still in Oklahoma, and Oklahoma’s elected officials have some issues they need to work through.
Last, let’s turn to the most important thing I’ve learned about Tulsa: country-music legend and number-one selling solo artist in the United States (second only to the Beatles in overall sales and yes, he’s moved more albums than Elvis) Garth Brooks is from Tulsa.
In fact, I think Garth Brooks captures something essential about Tulsa: it’s Western, it’s country, it’s working hard and finding success, and from time to time, it ain’t above throwing on a wig, getting in its feelings, and trying something new.
Tulsa sure does have a lot to offer — a lot more than I would have guessed before I wrote this post. And sure, the Republican leadership of the state is, well, horrible, but I’m no fan of Andrew Cuomo either and I still manage to survive every day here in New York City.
As for Tulsa? I’m probably not moving there, but for $10,000, maybe you should.