State touts new program to entice virtual workers for West Virginia’s outdoor offerings

State leaders and tech giant Brad Smith today touted a program meant to entice remote workers to West Virginia.

Ascend WV offers a relocation package valued at more than $20,000, which includes $12,000 cash and a year’s worth of free outdoor recreation donated by more than a dozen outfitters from across the state.

Gov. Jim Justice, Tourism Secretary Chelsea Ruby, Intuit chief executive Brad Smith and others introduced the program at a series of events this morning.

Gov. Jim Justice

“We have been the frogs that are now truly proud of their own pond,” Justice said. “People so badly want to come. That, in combination with our broadband efforts, will bring so many people to West Virginia.”

The program’s first three host cities will be Morgantown, Shepherdstown and Lewisburg.

While three Ascend WV program cities are preparing to welcome the first classes of remote workers, leaders
are already exploring ways to expand the program to additional communities. Several other West Virginia towns
are taking advantage of remote work trends and looking to create local programs and initiatives.

Applications for Ascend WV are now open for the first 50 spots in the host city of Morgantown. Application
windows for the program’s sister cities of Shepherdstown and Lewisburg will be announced at a later date.
To learn more about Ascend WV, view the full incentive package, and to apply, visit www.AscendWV.com.

Chelsea Ruby

“Now much of the nation and the world knows about Almost Heaven West Virginia,” Ruby said. “We’re going to invite people to take a permanent vacation in the place John Denver dubbed Almost Heaven almost 50 years ago.”

The unveiling of Ascend WV comes after the Smiths’ transformational $25 million gift to WVU’s Brad and Alys Smith Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative in late 2020.

In just six months, the outdoor economic development collaborative partnered with representatives from the Department of Tourism and Department of Economic Development to hone a program that carries out their shared vision.

Brad and Alys Smith

Smith is a West Virginia native who was born and raised in Kenova. He said West Virginia has natural resources that should be attractive to the increasing numbers of people who are are to perform their work remotely.

“Here we sit. Here West Virginia sits in the middle of this intersection,” Smith said. “We’re surrounded by these amazing rivers and these trails and these mountains that once served as walls. They’ll get to know our people. They’ll find out why we’re the kindest people on earth.”

West Virginia has been having a broad discussion about the possibilities for remote workers that’s intertwined with trying to improve broadband connectivity across the state.

Roger Hanshaw

“West Virginia can be a great place if you’re looking to leave the office tower in Manhattan or the officer tower in Chicago or the highrise in Houston,” House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, said today on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”

Lawmakers completed legislation Saturday on a broad-ranging bill aimed at improving broadband development in the state. State officials hope increased connectivity will allow more people to work from wherever they want, despite the state’s rural nature.

Mitch Carmichael

Under that vision, the rural environment would become a draw for people who want to get out of big cities and enjoy outdoor offerings.

The Ascend WV program provides free coworking space where remote workers will have modern amenities
to stay connected and access to more than $1,200 in free outdoor gear rentals for use with family and friends.

Moreover, participants will be invited to networking events with state business leaders, guided outdoor excursions, and have the chance to earn remote work certifications through West Virginia University along with access to the university’s entrepreneurship ecosystem.

“By inviting these high-earning workers to move to the Mountain State, they will generate a significant and lasting economic impact,” said Secretary Mitch Carmichael of the Department of Economic Development.





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