What is Ascend West Virginia?
West Virginia native Brad D. Smith, the CEO of Intuit and currently the president of Marshall University, and his wife, Alys, founded Ascend West Virginia in 2021. They believe West Virginia is “almost heaven” and want to encourage young entrepreneurs to relocate to the state. They donated a generous $25 million to West Virginia University to create the Brad and Alys Smith Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative, which partners with West Virginia Tourism.
The program provides comprehensive incentives for remote workers to spend time making West Virginia home. It is perfect for those workers that want to spend time outside, connect with like-minded individuals, and experience something new.
Quick facts about Ascend West Virginia
You must be a remote worker or manage a company based outside of WV and currently live anywhere but WV.
- $12,000 cash
- one year of accessible outdoor recreation
- a free coworking space
- social programming
- professional development
- entrepreneurial assistance
- outdoor recreation asset enhancement and development
The application takes around an hour to complete.
If selected, applicants will receive emails for virtual interviews.
Once accepted, you need to move to West Virginia within six months.
How does Ascend West Virginia work?
Applicants choose between Greenbrier Valley, Morgantown, and Eastern Panhandle. The program offers the same incentives in each area, but applicants pick where they feel most at home. Once accepted, they relocate to their Ascend location and join the network.
Greenbrier Valley has charming mountain towns, great restaurants, a salt cave, locally made craft beer, and a 78-mile-long former railroad where you can walk, bike, or ride horseback.
The Morgantown area has plenty of young entrepreneurs and West Virginia University and is about an hour’s drive from Pittsburgh. You can find about anything in Morgantown, from foodie spots to large state parks.
The Eastern Panhandle is perfect for those that want to be close to Washington D.C., which is just a short 90-minute drive away. You will not find more small-town charm anywhere else.
The program began in 2021 and welcomed 53 members to the first class of Ascend West Virginia from 21 states, Washington, D.C, and Germany. In total, 110 people will be relocating to the Morgantown area. See more demographics here.
Who can qualify?
The qualifications are not very strict. The program wants remote workers that currently reside outside of West Virginia.
Applicants should be innovative, determined, and drawn to spending time in the outdoors and mountains of the state.
Applicants must be 18 years or older and work for or manage a company outside of West Virginia.
The ideal candidate wants new adventures and a built-in community and is searching for a better work/life balance.
Applicants must be US citizens or green card holders.
Need help finding a remote job? Check out our blog post on how to find remote work.
What are the incentives?
The first $10,000 gets paid over your first 12 months in the state. Then, if you decide to stay another year, you get the remaining $2,000. Payment checks get distributed in person at your coworking space. It should come out to $833.33 per month for your first year. You can use the money however you see fit, like getting a new laptop to up your remote working game.
On top of the cash prize, the year of outdoor recreation has a value of over $2,500. It includes excursions like ziplining, rafting, golfing, and climbing. You also get two years of free outdoor gear rentals if you want to kayak or bike but do not have the proper equipment.
The coworking space in your program will be in the heart of your new city. There are many events for members of the program to connect with each other to make the transition a bit easier. There are also events for members to communicate with locals in the towns.
Part of the program gives members the opportunity for a Remote Worker or Remote Manager Certification through the College of Business and Economics at West Virginia University. You can also get invaluable opportunities to launch or grow your own business.
The founders of the program want people to experience the work-life balance in a better way. They believe remote workers can gain more from their careers and personal lives through community, purpose, and the outdoors.
What are the requirements?
The only requirement is to relocate to your community for at least two years. If you frequently travel for work, do not let this discourage you from applying. You need to have your home base in your new community, but you can travel as needed.
How long does it last?
The program lasts for a total of two years to redeem the full value of the package. However, the connections you made and experiences you had will last a lifetime. If you were to leave before your two years are up, you could keep the money you have already been paid but would forfeit the rest of your earnings. Brad and Alys Smith seem confident that you will not want to leave once you experience all West Virginia offers.
How do I apply?
Applications are open if this program sounds like an excellent fit for you. They say it takes around one hour to apply fully. You will answer questions about who you are, what you do, and how you give back to your community. Research the different communities before applying. The team reviews applications as they get submitted and then invites potential candidates to virtual interviews.
Once selected, program members will relocate to their community within six months. Although the program does not provide housing, they partner with local real estate agents and other professionals to make the move as seamless as possible.
You should look into this program even if you have never considered moving to West Virginia. Living in your community for two years is the only stipulation for getting the cash prize. Not only do you get a lot of resources that can help you grow in your career, but you also get to enjoy the beautiful outdoors and try something new.
Ascend West Virginia is an excellent opportunity for digital nomads that need to stay in United States time zones but are looking for something different. At the very minimum, joining a program founded by the former CEO of Intuit, a company that made almost $10 billion in revenue last year, guarantees many learning opportunities.