Remote Worker Initiative Launched in West Virginia
In October 2020, Alys and Brad D. Smith—through their Wing 2 Wing Foundation—donated $25 million to West Virginia University to develop the Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative (OEDC). The OEDC was created to leverage the state’s outdoor recreation opportunities to stimulate the economy and improve the overall quality of life in West Virginia. As part of this program, a remote worker initiative called Ascend WV was created, and, as of Monday, April 12, 2021, interested candidates can apply. In the United States there are now more than 4 million workers able to work from wherever they want. West Virginia is hoping to capture their attention and introduce them to the natural beauty of the area.
Ascend WV, which is funded by the OEDC, aims to encourage people to move to West Virginia and enjoy the incredible natural resources and high quality of living that the state has to offer – at a low cost. The program is offering a $12,000 incentive and a year’s worth of free outdoor recreation across the state to the accepted candidates.
The first cities to accept remote workers are Morgantown, Lewisburg and Shepherdstown. Each of these cities will welcome 25 to 50 workers at a time. By keeping the groups small, the workers will have a chance to connect and get used to their new communities. For now, these are the only three cities participating in the program, but over time, Alys and Brad have a vision for all 55 counties across the state to participate.
The outdoor recreation component is one of the biggest differentiators of West Virginia’s program from others available across the country. Ascend WV is also investing in co-working spaces in each of the three cities to unite remote workers and local talent, driving collaboration and innovation between the two groups.
“This is an excellent opportunity for the city of Morgantown to showcase what makes us unique,” said Morgantown Mayor Ron Dulaney Jr. “We’re a diverse and inclusive community that offers an abundance of outdoor activities, a vibrant arts and culture scene, top tier college sports, and outstanding shopping and dining experiences. It’s big-city amenities, with a small-town feel. These are things that are attractive to young families and professionals and it’s what makes Morgantown a great place to live, work and play.” Applications to participate in the program in Morgantown open on April 12, 2021. Applications for the other cities will be announced at a later date. To learn more about the program and apply you can check out the WV Remote Worker site.