West Virginia Launches Remote Worker Program with Cash and Adventure Incentives

This week, the state of West Virginia launched a very enticing remote-work program, especially for outdoor adventurers. Ascend WV is offering $12,000 and a free outdoor recreation incentive package to those who are able to work remotely and willing to move to the Mountain State. Potential applicants will have the opportunity to enjoy world-class outdoor recreation, uncrowded spaces, and low cost of living, all while staying connected to their jobs. Applications for the program—started with funding from West Virginia natives Alys and Brad Smith—are now being accepted to live in Morgantown, with more towns becoming options soon. 

“We are rolling out the red carpet and inviting remote workers from across the country to make Almost Heaven, West Virginia their home,” said West Virginia Governor Jim Justice in a press release. “Today’s announcement couldn’t come at a better time for West Virginia. We’re leading the nation’s vaccine rollout, welcoming investment from major companies like Virgin Hyperloop, and now have a program in place that offers remote workers the freedom to live and work in paradise.”

The program started with a generous donation of $25 million from the Smiths to West Virginia University’s Brad and Alys Smith Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative ( OEDC), which made the Ascend WV Remote Work Program possible. Within six months the Smith OEDC partnered with the state Department of Tourism and Department of Economic Development to bring the project across the finish line. 

“It has always been my dream to give back to the state that forever has my heart,” said Smith in a press release. “Together, Alys and I set forth a vision to create a program that would allow West Virginia to capitalize on national workforce trends by leveraging the state’s incredible outdoor recreation assets. West Virginians have been ascending mountains for generations. Now, we’re inviting remote workers from across the country to join us in our ascent to rise to new heights, together. They’ll quickly discover there’s nothing like the inspiration of the mountains to fuel their pursuits.”

According to a Gartner survey, 47 percent of company executives will allow employees to work from home full-time after the pandemic. Even though many remote programs have sprouted from the pandemic, West Virginia is the only state to use its natural assets to recruit and retain talent. According to Ascend West Virginia, the program includes the following: 

  • Cash: $12,000 in cash with no strings attached. The funds can be used to assist with moving and living expenses or fuel new passions and hobbies in West Virginia.
  • Free Outdoor Recreation: One year of free outdoor recreation to fully explore 2,032 miles of whitewater, 4,000 rock climbing routes, 1.5 million acres of public lands, 1,500 miles of public trails and America’s newest national park: New River Gorge Park and Preserve. The package is valued at more than $2,500 and encourages a healthy work-life balance filled with hiking, ATV-ing, ziplining, rafting, rock climbing, golfing, skiing, and more.
  • Free coworking space: A break free from the ordinary with access to inspiring spaces in the heart of thriving mountain towns. Here, 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.
  • Professional advancement: The ability to earn remote work certifications through West Virginia University and access to John Chambers College of Business and Economics’ entrepreneurship ecosystem.
  • Networking: The chance to be a guest at a variety of exclusive events to connect entrepreneurs with state business leaders and guided excursions to experience West Virginia’s abundant outdoor recreation assets.

Ascend West Virginia has also joined leading innovation initiatives such as Virgin Hyperloop, Vantage Ventures, and FinTech Sandbox – all of which reflect the entrepreneurial-led approach West Virginia University has taken to encourage economic development in the Mountain State. 

“West Virginia University has entered the modern age by embracing innovation and engaging with those whose eyes are cast to the future,” West Virginia University President Gordon Gee said in a press release. “Brad and Alys Smith represent the kind of forward-thinking creativity that will lure people from all corners of the globe to discover the beauty of West Virginia’s outdoor assets bringing fresh talent that will help to ignite the state’s economy.

The full relocation package is valued at more than $20,000 and can be viewed at www.AscendWV.com along with more information, and applications to Morgantown. The application windows for the program’s sister cities will be announced at a later date. 

Places to Go, Things to See: