On September 9, 2020, Brad D. Smith sat down for a Q&A session with writer…
Brad. D. Smith Shares Five Reasons to Move to West Virginia
“I’m a boy from a small town in West Virginia who spent twenty two years dreaming of a way out and every day since looking for a way home,” Brad told Good Morning America on October 22, 2021. The segment focused on Ascend West Virginia — an initiative Brad started alongside his wife Alys, the West Virginia Department of Tourism and West Virginia University to encourage remote workers to relocate to the Mountain State.
While the program offers participants a $12,000 cash incentive, as a West Virginia native and a leader specifically working to uplift the state, Brad hopes that individuals will learn to appreciate his home for all that it has to offer. In Brad’s eyes, West Virginia is a place to start fresh and help build a thriving community.
When recently asked what he considered to be the top reasons for moving to West Virginia, Brad supplied the following five:
Truly, “Almost Heaven”
Many are familiar with the popular John Denver song “Take Me Home, Country Roads” which visualizes for listeners the beauty of the state. Denver’s feelings are summarized in the first line of the song: “Almost Heaven, West Virginia.” Brad’s feelings are similar to Denver’s — he believes that one of the greatest reasons for relocating to West Virginia is the opportunity to enjoy the 1.5 million acres of beautiful public landscape and the outdoor recreation that comes with it. From kayaking to hiking and more, West Virginia is an ideal place for those looking to embrace either adventure, solace or both in the great outdoors. The state offers: 2,032 miles of whitewater, 4,000 rock climbing routes, and 1,500 miles of public trails.
Brad often says that if West Virginia is “almost Heaven” then the state is also “where God placed His kindest angels.“ Brad attests firsthand to the welcoming nature of West Virginians and the Hallmark-like communities they have created.
An Ascend West Virginia participant was recently asked what it was like to have lived in the state for the past three months. The woman described the character of West Virginia’s people by saying, “I feel like I’ve been baptized in kindness.” West Virginia is the ideal place for those looking to branch out, make new acquaintances and feel welcome as they begin their next life chapter.
Intuit founder Scott Cook recently reminded Brad of a quote spoken to them by John Doerr — a venture capitalist who helped fund Intuit. During board meetings, John used to say, “We are surrounded by insurmountable opportunity.”
Brad recalls John sharing this perspective as the group worked to scale the company with Scott at the helm as a first-time CEO. Intuit leadership recognized they faced a number of challenges, but chose to view those challenges as opportunities. Today, Brad feels much the same about West Virginia.
“We are on the entrepreneurial ground floor,” Brad said recently. “[We have] a chance to solve problems that people struggle with around the globe.” Brad then referenced a number of global issues including providing healthcare and health services to those living in rural areas, finding and providing a solution to opioid abuse, and helping children who are on the autism spectrum flourish.
“[In West Virginia] We have more than the average share [of challenges] but we’re also working to find solutions — if you want to come in and help solve some of the most challenging problems in the twenty-first century, come to West Virginia.”
A Chance to Be a Changemaker
Similar to providing opportunity, Brad believes that West Virginia offers people the chance to give back. Brad recalls how a consulting firm once noted that, while West Virginia has a disproportionately high number of issues for its small geographic size, that the state’s small size makes solving those problems feasible. Brad believes West Virginia holds the potential to become a case study for the nation’s challenges and solutions. Opportunities for professionals of various expertise to relocate and find solutions to those problems abound.
A Place for Community and Self-Fulfillment
The combination of its beautiful environment, welcoming communities and lower cost of living sets the stage for West Virginia to be a place of solace and, ultimately, a home. In addition to the opportunities the Mountain State presents its residents for reconnecting with nature and achieving work-life balance, Brad also believes it’s a perfect place for finding a sense of self in a larger context.
“It’s a wonderful place to come and find yourself again as a member of a community,” he said. At its core, West Virginia is a place where people can successfully live, work and play in harmony.
More About Brad and Ascend West Virginia
Since leaving the realm of corporate America behind, Brad has been fully dedicated to uplifting West Virginia. While his day job involves serving Marshall University as its president, Brad also works alongside his wife Alys to uphold the nonprofit organization they founded together in 2019: the Wing 2 Wing Foundation.
The couple’s joint venture seeks to level the playing field in the Mountain State by supporting and investing in education, entrepreneurship and the environment. Ascend West Virginia is funded through the Wing 2 Wing Foundation as part of the Brad and Alys Smith Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative. Learn more about Ascend West Virginia.