To Become a Tech Hub, Tulsa Recruits Ukrainian Workers – Tech News Briefing

This transcript was prepared by a transcription service. This version may not be in its final form and may be updated.

Zoe Thomas: This is your Tech News Briefing for Wednesday, April 19th. I’m Zoe Thomas for the Wall Street Journal. Tulsa, Oklahoma is known for its rich history of oil production as the birthplace of Route 66 and for its art deco architecture, but locals want it to become something more, a regional tech hub. Our immigration reporter, Alicia Caldwell, joins us to explain why that’s led one group to recruit Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion. That’s after these headlines.
Facebook parent Meta says it’s opening its flagship virtual reality app, Horizon Worlds, to teenagers. The company announced yesterday that teens ages 13 to 17 in the US and Canada will be able to use the service starting in a few weeks. Meta has been struggling to gain and keep users in its Horizon Worlds metaverse and it’s looking to boost engagement on its Quest VR headsets. Two lawmakers along with over 70 health, privacy, and children’s rights organizations have called on Meta to abandon its plans to launch Horizon to teens saying the company has a record of failing to protect young people on its apps. In a blog post, Meta said it was rolling out the program to teens slowly and carefully.
Netflix is axing the DVD-by-mail business the company was built upon. Starting later this year, it will no longer ship disks in red envelopes. It’s part of a strategic shift as Netflix focuses on gaining new subscribers. After losing customers for the first time last year, Netflix said it added 1.75 million subscribers in the first quarter of 2023. It’s also undertaking other strategic changes, including cracking down on password sharing. Netflix said new password sharing limitations will be expanded more broadly by the end of June.
Canada’s public broadcaster, the CBC, is quitting Twitter. The CBC made the decision to pause activity after Twitter labeled its account as government-funded media. National Public Radio and Public Broadcasting Service have also abandoned Twitter on the same grounds. CBC argued that government funding only covered about two thirds of its expenses for the 2021, 2022 fiscal year. Twitter has since edited the label to say 69% government-funded media. Twitter responded to an emailed request for comment with a poop emoji.
And this week, Apple joined the competition for bank deposits with the launch of a high yield savings account that pays an annual percentage yield of 4.15%. Apple is partnering with Goldman Sachs on its savings accounts, which are available with an Apple credit card. WSJ personal finance reporter Julia Carpenter has more so

Julia Carpenter: Because Apple is Apple, everyone knows the brand. It’s so ubiquitous. Everyone’s familiar with the product. They already have an existing user base that is potentially lured by this product. They add to that a savings rate that’s higher than some of the other savings rates out there. It’s not as high as the highest, but it’s higher than popular products like Ally or Marcus, and they have a user base that’s already probably pretty attracted to that.

Zoe Thomas: The Apple savings accounts don’t require a minimum deposit and are protected by the FDIC. Okay, coming up, Oklahoma’s second-biggest city wants to become a tech hub, and its recruiting workers from an unexpected place. We’ll explain when we come back.
Ukrainians looking for a new home following Russia’s invasion of their country are being recruited to move to Tulsa, Oklahoma. The city wants to become a regional tech hub, and displaced Ukrainians offer the engineering skills many businesses need. Joining me to discuss how the program works and what it’s like for new arrivals is Alicia Caldwell who covers immigration for the Wall Street Journal. So, Alicia, tell us a bit about how this program works and who it’s trying to attract to Tulsa.

Alicia Caldwell: There’s this nonprofit group in Tulsa, Oklahoma, called the inTulsa Visa Network. It’s an offshoot of another recruitment group, and they’re trying to recruit Ukrainian would-be parolees, basically people who are allowed to move to the US under the Uniting for Ukraine program. They’re allowed to come here for two years. As soon as they get off the plane, they’re eligible to work. And specifically, inTulsa is looking for those Ukrainians who want to move to Tulsa and have high-tech skills, specifically STEM degrees, people working in that field already, ready to hit the ground running.

Zoe Thomas: So far, how many people have they attracted to Tulsa?

Alicia Caldwell: They’ve got about 15 approved for their side of the program. And then, those folks, of course, are in various stages of process with the US government because you also have to be approved by the US government, and you get a sponsor, and you’re allowed to come to the US. In this case, one of the organizers of inTulsa is acting as the sponsor and inTulsa, the Visa Network, acts as the broader sponsor in the sense of helps you get housing, picks you up at the airport, arranges for your travel, and once you get here or in some cases before you arrive, they’ll start connecting you with would-be employers. You’ve got an interview, of course, there’s no guarantee that any one employer’s going to pick you, but you start interviewing and hopefully you get placed with a job and you go forward.

Zoe Thomas: You’ve spoken to some of these people. What has their experience been like, moving to Tulsa, taking up this opportunity?

Alicia Caldwell: It’s been interesting. I spoke with a man named Andrii Skorniakov. He and his family, two daughters and his wife, moved in December. And when they were looking at this program initially online, when they were living in France last year, Andrii said he thought it might be a scam. And then he spoke to one of the organizers, who himself emigrated from Ukraine as a child, and they spoke and he felt far more comfortable, obviously, and went down that process. He’s now working remotely in Tulsa from his new three-bedroom house just outside downtown Tulsa.
He says it’s a big change for the family. They’re used to living in an urban center. They’re from Kyiv and they were in a big apartment building and now they’ve got the single family home in the suburban area. And it’s a change, but it’s a nice change for them. Obviously, they’re no longer concerned about the war coming to their front door, though their oldest son remains in Ukraine. He got some military service as well as finishing his college degree and hopes at some stage to become a commercial pilot. And Andrii has said he’d like to help his son move to the United States and pursue that career path as he himself gets settled here in the US.

Zoe Thomas: Are there any additional limitations that these programs place on them?

Alicia Caldwell: Not especially. With Uniting for Ukraine, things are actually a lot easier for these particular immigrants, right? They are approved to come to the United States, and as soon as they step foot on US soil, you’re flying to JFK, you go through immigration, you’re legally eligible to work, which is a huge difference compared to asylum seekers, for instance, who come across the Southwest border who are basically on their own once they’re released from US government custody, if they’re released. They have to navigate a system on their own.
Ukrainians and other people who are allowed to come in under these parole programs, and it’s expanding to four other Latin American countries, Cuba, Haiti, Venezuelan, Nicaragua, they are in a much better position. For the Ukrainians, for instance, they’re eligible for some social welfare benefits that are typically reserved for refugees. While these folks are not legally defined as refugees, they’re treated in much the same way. And with the sponsorship program, generally the sponsor is on the hook, if you will, to help you find a house, help you get settled, possibly find language classes, get some educational training if your career doesn’t necessarily translate directly or if your degrees don’t translate directly. With Uniting for Ukraine matching up with inTulsa, the goal is to skip some of those steps, if you will, because it’s already built in by inTulsa.

Zoe Thomas: You mentioned they’re allowed to come here for a couple of years. Can you tell us more about that? Could these Ukrainians stay in the country longer if they wanted to?

Alicia Caldwell: Right now, their parole is eligible for two years, and it’s the same for those other four countries. And inTulsa Network will try to help, where it can, for those who decide they want to stay, is there an avenue by which they can change their status and become either permanent residents or obtain a Visa to stay beyond that two years? And frankly, we don’t know what will happen when these paroles start to expire. Obviously, the war in Ukraine continues and its fate is still yet to be determined, and the US government’s determination on what to do with those parole dates is still up in the air.

Zoe Thomas: Let’s talk a little bit about the tech scene in Tulsa. What’s it like, and how are they trying to develop it?

Alicia Caldwell: It’s growing, and they’re struggling, I’m told, to find workers. So the inTulsa program, the nonprofit that then spawned the Visa Network, started out recruiting tech workers to Tulsa, just US residents and people working in the US, “Come to Tulsa, we’ve got all these jobs, help us fill them.” Then they expanded to the Visa Network. Once the Uniting for Ukraine program was developed, they saw a dual purpose there. You can help people escape this war and fill jobs. So basically, the goal, writ large, in this burgeoning community is to make Tulsa something of a tech hub, a Silicon Valley, of the heartland.

Zoe Thomas: Is this program, is this strategy something other cities are also trying to emulate?

Alicia Caldwell: Not that I’ve seen so far. Right now, it’s not a city-sponsored program, but the mayor of Tulsa, Mayor Bynum, is super aggressive in welcoming immigrants. He’s a Republican in a very red state who said, “You know what, this is an approach I want to take. Our population has grown because of immigration, because of foreign-born people moving into Tulsa. It’s gone from 9% to about 11% of the population over the last couple of years.” He sees an economic driver there.

Zoe Thomas: All right. That’s our reporter, Alisa Caldwell. Thanks for joining us. And that’s it for today’s Tech News Briefing. If you want more tech stories, check out our website, wsj.com. And if you like our show, please rate and review it. You can do that wherever you get your podcasts. I’m Zoe Thomas for the Wall Street Journal. Thanks for listening.

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