CHARLESTON, W.Va., April 12, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- West Virginia today launched the nation's premiere remote-work program, aimed at recruiting outdoor-enthusiast professionals to the Mountain State. Ascend WV is supported by West Virginia native Brad D. Smith and his wife Alys, and allows adventurers to enjoy world-class outdoor recreation, uncrowded spaces, and a low cost of living while staying fully connected to their jobs. And it comes with the country's best remote worker incentive package: $12,000 and a year's worth of free outdoor recreation. Applications are now being accepted for Morgantown―the first of many participating cities.
"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. "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."
A Generous Donation Leads to a Chance of a Lifetime for Many Remote Workers
The Ascend WV Remote Work Program was made possible by a $25 million gift to West Virginia University's Brad and Alys Smith Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative (Smith OEDC) from Intuit executive chairman Brad D. Smith and his wife, Alys. In just six short months, the Smith OEDC partnered with the state Department of Tourism and Department of Economic Development to create this transformational program. Born and raised in Kenova, West Virginia, Smith left the state to pursue his dreams but never lost the passion for his mountain home. Now, he is giving back to the state that gave him the foundation, innovative chops, and perseverance in hopes of helping others achieve their own success fueled by an experience-driven lifestyle.
"It has always been my dream to give back to the state that forever has my heart," said Smith. "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."
Remote Work Program Offers $12,000 Cash, Free Outdoor Recreation and More
A Gartner survey found 47% of company executives will allow employees to work from home full-time after the pandemic. The fact remote work is here to stay has prompted programs around the country; however, West Virginia is the only state to use its natural assets to recruit and retain talent. To ensure participants experience West Virginia's extraordinary landscapes, roaring rivers and vibrant small towns, the program includes these incentives:
- Cash: $12,000 in cash with no strings attached. The funds can be used to assist with moving and living expenses or explore 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.
The full relocation package is valued at more than $20,000 and can be viewed at www.AscendWV.com.
Residing in West Virginia Leads to an Attainable, Inspiring Work-Life Balance
Research shows since the pandemic started, approximately 16 million people have already made the life-changing decision to move—and remote workers en route boast an average salary of $90,000. West Virginia offers a breath of fresh air with less crowds and traffic―plus a better quality of life. In fact, the cost of living in West Virginia is 16% below the national average, and the West Virginia Legislature recently passed a bill that will reform West Virginia's corporate tax laws to make the state a haven for all remote workers.
"Everything that makes West Virginia a great place to visit makes it an even better place to live and work," said Secretary Chelsea Ruby of the West Virginia Department of Tourism. "With remote work becoming a permanent option for more and more professionals, we're excited to introduce them to the blend of adventure and serenity that makes life in West Virginia a permanent vacation."
West Virginia Supports Leading, Entrepreneurial-Focused Initiatives
Ascend WV joins 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 drive continued economic development opportunities 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," said West Virginia University President Gordon Gee. "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."
Applications Now Open for Morgantown With More to Come in the Future
Applications for the Ascend WV Remote Work Program are now open for the first 50 spots in the host city of Morgantown, which is known for its bustling college town atmosphere, cuisine, culture and proximity to outdoor recreation opportunities. Applicants interested in this first host city will be surrounded by nearly 100 paddling runs, 1,400 climbing routes, nearly 200 mountain bike trails and access to seven different ski areas.
And while Morgantown―along with Shepherdstown and Lewisburg―are preparing to welcome the first class of remote workers, organizers are already considering ways to expand the Ascend WV Remote Work Program to additional communities.
"Our vision for Ascend WV is to see the program continue to grow and expand to additional cities throughout the state, attracting thousands of individuals and families with the goal of making them lifelong residents," said Alys Smith.
Application windows for the program's sister cities will be announced at a later date.
About Ascend WV
Ascend WV is more than a remote work program. It is a vision of a better way of living in a place that gives you more than it takes back.
Through Ascend WV, the nation's remote workers can build a new life in the mountain towns of West Virginia. With incredible incentives like $12,000 and a year of free outdoor recreation with access to complimentary gear rentals, the Ascend WV offer is one that cannot be matched. Ascend WV was made possible by a $25 million gift to West Virginia University's Brad and Alys Smith Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative (Smith OEDC). From there, the Smith OEDC collaborated with partners from around the state to help remote workers from around the country rise to new heights: Governor Jim Justice, West Virginia Department of Tourism, West Virginia Department of Economic Development, West Virginia University, and more.
To learn more and apply for the first host city of Morgantown, visit www.AscendWV.com.
West Virginia Department of Tourism
BVK, on behalf of West Virginia Department of Tourism
SOURCE West Virginia Tourism Office