Stillwater’s investment in remote workers pays off

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Remote workers across the country are drawn to the small-town vibe and vibrant culture of the town of Stillwater, which they discover through the MakeMyMove website. Pictured are the Red Dirt Rangers performing at a Stillwater Festival. (Courtesy of Photo/Town of Stillwater)

Even before the pandemic, Zachary Kosma knew he wanted to get away from San Francisco. Sure, there are beautiful places in California, but they’re hard to appreciate given the region’s congestion and competitive, fast-paced culture that leaves no time to smell the roses.

As a technician serving global companies such as Google, Kosma can work anywhere there is an internet connection. All he needed was a way to find the right little friendly community that he and his dog would then call home.

More than 1,500 miles away, officials in Stillwater, Oklahoma — a population of 50,000 — were looking for a way to publicize the town’s relocation program. Stillwater is offering $5,000 down payment assistance for homebuyers and $300 for closing costs, plus up to $1,500 in relocation expense reimbursement to encourage people to move to town.

Mayor Will Joyce credited the Stillwater Chamber of Commerce for finding MakeMyMove, a sort of matchmaking service for remote workers and the communities that want to attract them. MakeMyMove was founded in 2020 by Angie’s List co-founder Bill Oesterle and former Angie’s List executive Evan Hock.

“We had worked to recruit talent in the state of Indiana for a few years before,” said Hock, who is now president of MakeMyMove.

“What we realized during the pandemic was that this increase in remote work really represented an opportunity for communities that were trying to grow,” Hock said. “So we created the site as a kind of experiment: can we hire some of these remote workers and connect them to communities? And we’ve been really blown away by the interest.

MakeMyMove currently features over 100 communities to thousands of remote workers looking to relocate.

“These people are extremely valuable,” Hock said. “They pay taxes, they buy houses in the neighborhood, they go out to eat. Recruiting 20 teleworkers in a region is like recruiting a company with 20 people in a region.

Although remote work has been boosted during the pandemic, the trend will likely continue into the indefinite future. MakeMyMove recently conducted a survey which found that 70% of workers under 40 would rather quit their job than return to the office.

“There are over 40 million remote workers right now, and most of those people aren’t ready to give up that remote work anytime soon,” Hock said. “They like the freedom and flexibility that is offered to them. »

Of the communities seeking remote workers on MakeMyMove, only 65 offer tangible incentives like the Stillwater Relocation Assistance Program, Hock said. Stillwater tells a great story, he said, pointing to its history as the place where Red Dirt music was born and where artists like Garth Brooks and the All-American Rejects began their careers.

The Stillwater Incentive Package includes a Red Dirt Music Tour exploring the sights and history of the Red Dirt music scene in Stillwater led by John Cooper of the Red Dirt Rangers, tickets to the Gypsy Cafe Songwriter Festival 2023 and a live concert at the Tumbleweed Dance Hall, and a $2,000 tab at the local cafe, Aspen Coffee – Fountain Square.

“I needed to breathe some fresh air and find a place that was a nice, quiet town that still had big-city amenities close at hand,” Kosma said. “Stillwater seems to be what I want in life.”

Kosma, who has lived in Stillwater for a month now, said he enjoys talking with his friendly neighbors while walking his dog. He was also pleasantly surprised by the quality of local restaurants, sports stadiums and musical attractions.

Many Oklahoma State University students and faculty have noticed how much they find Stillwater a great place to live, Joyce said.

“There are a lot of people who think Stillwater is a great place to live, but sometimes they haven’t been able to find the career they want here,” Joyce said. “I grew up here, went to college here, but moved away for 10 years because I struggled to find the right career opportunity for me and my family. If I could have working remotely during this time and living in Stillwater, I would have jumped at the chance.

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