Ascend West Virginia program welcomes first class of remote workers
Almost heaven, West Virginia. The newest residents of the Mountain State will have the chance to discover for themselves if that classic John Denver line holds true as they relocate to Morgantown in the Ascend West Virginia program’s inaugural class. Just 53 applicants were chosen from among more than 7,500 entrants for the state’s remote worker program, launched in an attempt to entice high earners looking for a pandemic change of pace.
With their families, the winners will add about 110 people to Morgantown’s population. They come from 21 states and Washington, D.C., even as far away as Berlin. Their average annual income is about $105,000. Ascend West Virginia will provide them with a $12,000 cash relocation incentive, free co-working space with high-speed internet access, special events and guided excursions with state business leaders, the chance to earn remote work certifications at West Virginia University, and a free year of outdoor recreation valued at $2,500.
“More than ever before in my life, I’m craving new,” Quintina Mengyan, a 10-year Chicago resident and director of customer experience for Vivid Seats. “New scenery, new experiences, new challenges. Being outdoors and putting my energy towards exploring the earth is no longer something I want for a vacation, I want it every day. Jogs at dawn, appreciating the mountain air and natural trails, afternoon hikes and evenings near a lake with loved ones. Those are things I just couldn’t get in Chicago, but things I’ve quickly learned are the norm in West Virginia.”
Considering how many applicants Ascend West Viriginia got, the program — made possible by a $25 million grant from Intuit executive chairman Brad D. Smith and his wife, Alys — is encouraging them to reapply for the second class, which will live in Lewisburg, close to the New River Gorge Park and Preserve, America’s newest national park.
“We created this program knowing our offer wasn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Our program is unique and tailored to our greatest strength — outdoor recreation,” said Dr. Danny Twilley, Assistant Dean at the Brad & Alys Smith Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative. “We looked for people who aligned with what the state and our program had to offer and wanted to bring their talents to the mountain state. This first cohort will bring new energy and opportunities to the city of Morgantown and make a lasting impact on the entire state.”