Ascend West Virginia – Remote Worker Program

CHARLESTON — State officials have invited remote workers to consider taking a “permanent vacation” in the Mountain State with the help of the newly launched Ascend West Virginia program.

Gov. Jim Justice was joined by a diverse group of collaborators and stakeholders as he signed House Bill 2026 into law. The bill is designed to update the state’s corporate income tax laws to help attract remote workers from across the country.

“Today, we are rolling out the red carpet and inviting remote workers from across the country to make Almost Heaven, West Virginia their new home,” Justice said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the dream team that we’ve assembled to get this program off the ground.”

Workers who are accepted into the Ascend WV Program will receive a one-time incentive package valued at more than $20,000, including $12,000 in direct cash payments and a year’s worth of outdoor recreational opportunities, officials said.

Applications for Ascend WV’s first 50 spots in the initial host city of Morgantown opened at 10:01 a.m. Monday. Application windows for the program’s sister cities of Shepherdstown and Lewisburg will be announced at a later date.

Within 36 hours of the program’s launch, more than 55,000 people from 38 states had “inquired” about and around 2,000 people had completed applications, according to Justice.

“In 36 hours, 55,000 people have looked at West Virginia,” he said. “And 2,000 have filled out an application that took an hour out of their life to do it for 50 spots — 50 spots — in West Virginia. My, my, my.”

State Tourism Secretary Chelsea Ruby said the program is an “extension” of the Almost Heaven tourism and marketing campaign launched by the West Virginia Tourism Office in 2017.

“We’ve been really fortunate to invest in tourism advertising, and now much of the nation and the world knows about Almost Heaven West Virginia,” she said. “They think about [our] great state as a place you can go to visit to escape the crowds — a place you experience world-class outdoor recreation and a place where you can escape it all to the mountain towns full of culture and the friendliest people on the planet.”

HB 2026 “modernizes” the state’s corporate tax structure to make it more attractive to companies and individuals looking to resettle, Justice said.

“That, in combination with our broadband (expansion) efforts, will bring so many more people to West Virginia — we hope and pray at least,” he said.

The program is supported by and was developed in collaboration with West Virginia native and former Intuit Executive Chairman Brad Smith and his wife, Alys.

“Our vision for Ascend WV is that it will grow to become 55 counties strong,” Alys Smith said. “We know that each community in West Virginia has something unique to offer. Whether it’s proximity to outdoor recreation or warm small-town charm, our hope is that this program’s leadership team can grow Ascend WV’s reach to support more workers in more communities in the years to come.”

The Smiths recently gave $25 million to West Virginia University to create the Brad and Alys Smith Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative.

“Born and raised in Kenova, it has always been my dream to give back to the state that forever has my heart,” said Brad Smith. “Together, Alys and I set forth a vision to create a program that would allow West Virginia to capitalize on workforce trends by leveraging our incredible outdoor recreation assets. As West Virginians, we ascend mountains every day. Here, we’re inviting remote workers from across the country to join us in our ascent to rise to new heights, together.”

WVU President Dr. E. Gordon Gee said that university participants in the program will have the chance to earn remote work certifications through WVU, along with access to the university’s entrepreneurship ecosystem.

“As a land-grant institution, West Virginia University is committed to supporting the needs of our local communities and our state by providing opportunities to pursue higher education,” Gee said. “Thanks to the support and vision of Brad and Alys Smith, our outdoor recreation initiative, coupled with this remote worker program, is now well-positioned to take advantage of this unique moment in our history. I am confident this program will ignite an interest in West Virginia, as well as boost West Virginia’s economy.”

State Economic Development Secretary Mitch Carmichael said the program is the right step for West Virginia.

“By inviting these high-earning workers to move to the Mountain State, they will generate a significant and lasting economic impact,” he said. “Thanks to the governor’s remote worker legislation, which gained bipartisan support and passage by the Legislature, we’ve taken this incentive one step further and modernized our tax structure to be more friendly to this new and growing line of work. I could not be more excited to about this initiative.”

For More Information  – 04/19/2021

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