Brad D. Smith Discusses Ascend West Virginia on NPR’s “All Things Considered” Program

Two people kayaking on water in front of mountains and text that says "Ascend West Virginia"

On May 11, 2021, on an NPR “All Things Considered” segment titled “Pennies From (Almost) Heaven: Get Paid To Move To West Virginia,” hosts Alisa Chang and Mary Louise Kelly discussed Brad D. Smith’s Ascend West Virginia program. The episode included some recorded quotes from Brad, as well as quotes from Danny Twilley from West Virginia University, Assistant Dean of the Brad and Alys Smith Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative

The two and a half minute segment kicked off with Alisa setting the stage and reminding listeners of how the COVID-19 pandemic changed how many people work and live. She emphasized that, for some, the pandemic granted a newfound freedom to move away from the offices they were once tied to. She then moved into the specifics of Ascend West Virginia, informing listeners that the program’s goal is to draw people to the Mountain State. She covered that the program offers a $12,000 bonus for participants, on top of the state’s countless outdoor recreation opportunities. She called out the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah River, specifically. 

Mary Louise then came in to talk about the founding of the program and how the idea originated from Brad D. Smith. Mary Louise gave a brief history on Brad, noting that he is the former CEO of Intuit

“I grew up in West Virginia, and I refer to it as the house that built me,” Brad D. Smith said in the segment. 

The segment then dove deeper into the history of the program and how the idea first populated in 2017. Brad explained how the idea germinated when he noticed states competing to be the location of Amazon’s second headquarters. He mentioned how after being disqualified, several states changed their perspective. They realized they might not be able to attract companies, but they could attract employees. 

Alisa explained how by talking about this early idea during public appearances, Brad drew the attention of Greg Corio and Danny Twilley from West Virginia University. Greg and Danny recognized that West Virginia could be an ideal candidate for this kind of program. 

Brad recalled, “​​West Virginia University approached me and said, we have an outdoor economic development collaborative. We would love to talk to you about partnering on creating a remote worker program.”

Brad offered up a donation and the program was born. Mary Louise went on to talk about Danny and Greg’s goals for the program, which include fostering economic growth and growing meaningful connections in the state. 

To aid listeners interested in the Ascend West Virginia program, Alisa explained that participants must be currently fully employed outside of West Virginia and eligible to work remotely. Mary Louise added on that to receive the $12,000 bonus, participants must live in West Virginia for two consecutive years. 

Click here to listen to the podcast on NPR’s website.