Editor’s note: This article is shared from WVUToday, which posted this press release from Ascend West Virginia.
Ascend West Virginia, the nation’s premier talent attraction and retention program, announced its addition of the Greater Elkins community to the program. Founded by West Virginia native Brad D. Smith and his wife Alys, Ascend WV will welcome a new group of adventurers to the state’s Potomac Highlands, offering them more than $20,000 in incentives — and a path to making “Almost Heaven” home. Greater Elkins joins a lineup of other communities that have welcomed nearly 150 new West Virginians while maintaining a 98% retention rate.
“When we launched the program just over a year ago, no one could have predicted its immense success,” said Brad D. Smith, co-founder of the Wing 2 Wing Foundation and president of Marshall University. “We have recruited a tremendous amount of talent to our mountains and the applications continue to roll in. We are thrilled to be expanding the program to a fourth location for those seeking a better work-life balance. I look forward to meeting this new group of Ascenders and having them join the family of outdoor recreation enthusiasts who have found their home in the Mountain State. It’s just incredible to see the momentum continue to grow around this program and our great state.”
Beginning today (Nov. 29), applications are being accepted for the Greater Elkins community, in addition to the other three communities previously announced. The Elkins-Randolph County area is known for its pristine outdoor beauty, array of recreational opportunities, music and small town charm. This community, on the western edge of the Monongahela National Forest, makes a perfect home base for adventures in the nearby forest.
“The heart behind this program really boils down to these three principles: community, purpose and the outdoors. Those who have already made the move to West Virginia are already planting roots here and making a difference. We are thrilled to share our home among the hills with more remote workers and look forward to adding this new option in our state’s Potomac Highlands region,” said Alys Smith, co-founder of the Wing 2 Wing Foundation.
Ascend West Virginia Continues to Grow
Though their work spans industries ranging from health care to telecommunications, Ascend West Virginia members share a love for the great outdoors and bring a wide array of talents to their new communities. Since its launch in April of 2021, the program has welcomed 143 new residents to West Virginia from a pool of more than 20,000 applicants.
The first community to launch was Morgantown which has since brought “home” 87 new residents. One of those, Ben Frohman, described his experience with moving his family from Arlington, Virginia, to Morgantown last year.
“Ascend WV has given my family and me an incredible opportunity to be welcomed into a beautiful state with a ton of heart alongside a group of adventurous, like-minded people. Even better is that the Ascend cohort has been able to make our move to Morgantown supported by an impressively organized and led program that has brought together a fantastic group of people from across the country (and the world!) and made us feel truly welcomed in this great state.”
– Ben Frohman, Morgantown Area
The second community to open its doors to the Ascend program was the Greenbrier Valley. That community has taken off, receiving more than 6,500 applications since launch. Nicole Falk, one of the 37 who was selected to make the move to Lewisburg, shared her excitement for the outdoor recreation found in her new backyard.
“I moved to Lewisburg from the San Francisco Bay Area. The opportunity to live in West Virginia was both incredibly appealing and exciting to me after doing a double-century road bike ride in the area in 2013. Soon after moving here, the Greenbrier Valley enduro/mountain bike racers made me feel right at home. A local bike shop owner invited me to participate in the WV Enduro Series at Slatyfork, which was a great opportunity to explore and meet new riding buddies. After having raced and ridden some amazing, rugged trails this year, I’m excited to compete next year in more events and also explore more bike-packing routes in West Virginia.”
– Nicole Falk, Greenbrier Valley
Ascend West Virginia will soon welcome its first class for the Eastern Panhandle. To date, more than 2,900 have applied to make the move to the Eastern Panhandle and more than two dozen are finalizing their plans to relocate early next year. Those selected represent another diverse group hailing from 24 different U.S. states and Canada.
“I continue to be blown away by this program and the amazing new residents it’s bringing to our great state,” Gov. Jim Justice said. “Ascend WV is continuing to set the Mountain State apart from all the rest — I’ve said it before, but we really are the gem that the world is starting to take notice of. We couldn’t be more excited to welcome another amazing class of remote workers to West Virginia.”
Leading remote worker program offers $12,000 cash and year of free outdoor recreation
The Ascend WV program was made possible by a $25 million gift to West Virginia University’s Brad and Alys Smith Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative from former Intuit executive chairman and current Marshall University President Brad D. Smith and his wife, Alys. Together with Governor Justice and his departments of Tourism and Economic Development, the collective team developed the only program in the country that focuses on outdoor recreation opportunities for talent attraction and retention.
“The incredible success of Ascend WV shows just how appealing our quality of life is to professionals, whether or not they have previous connections to West Virginia,” WVU President Gordon Gee said. “And in my travels, I never fail to meet former West Virginians who would love to return if they could find career options within our borders. The Greater Elkins Area location expands those opportunities for those who want to help us build a brighter future.”
To help participants experience West Virginia’s extraordinary landscapes, roaring rivers and vibrant small towns, the program includes these incentives:
Cash: $12,000 cash relocation incentive, paid in installments over a two-year period.
Free Outdoor Recreation: One year of free outdoor recreation valued at more than $2,500. The package encourages a healthy work-life balance filled with hiking, ATV riding, ziplining, rafting, rock climbing, golfing, skiing, and more.
Free coworking space: Remote workers will have modern facilities to stay connected and access to more than $1,200 in free outdoor gear rentals.
Professional advancement: The ability to earn remote work certifications through
West Virginia University and access to the John Chambers College of Business and Economics entrepreneurship ecosystem.
Networking: Access to state business leaders through special events and guided excursions to experience West Virginia’s abundant outdoor recreation assets.
The program will welcome more than 1,000 remote workers to the state over the next five years.
“The Greater Elkins Area is an ideal location for Ascend WV as it is the western gateway to the Monongahela National Forest which provides a lifetime of outdoor recreation opportunities,” OEDC’s Danny Twilley said. “Coupled with a deeply caring and committed community, our future West Virginians will find a great place to live, work and play.
Applications now open for all four program areas
Beginning today, Ascend West Virginia is accepting applications for the Greater Elkins Area, as well as the Morgantown area, Eastern Panhandle and Greenbrier Valley.
“The trajectory of this program is a testament to the growing interest and positive buzz around West Virginia,” said Chelsea Ruby, secretary of the state Department of Tourism. “Our mountain towns have some of the most warm and welcoming residents you’ll find anywhere in the nation — they’re waiting with open arms for these new folks to move in. We encourage remote workers across the nation to find the vibrant community that fits their needs and apply for a chance to be a part of one of our next classes.”
The Ascend WV program spans four regions of the state, each of which offer a unique setting to appeal to remote workers:
Greenbrier Valley: Laid-back living just 40 minutes from America’s newest national park — the New River Gorge Park & Preserve — and home to 203 mountain bike trails, 2,280+ climbing routes, 138 paddling runs and a booming arts scene.
Morgantown Area: Lively college town brimming with culture, innovation and plenty of space to roam boasting 100 paddling runs, 1,400 climbing routes and nearly 200 mountain bike trails.
Eastern Panhandle: Historic small towns with great proximity to Washington, elevated with bustling arts and culture, new development and hearty adventure along the Appalachian Trail.
Greater Elkins: Small town charm, music and outdoor recreation meet here and provide a place to escape the hustle and bustle. Discover scenic trails, world-class fishing, the Monongahela National Forest and more.