Amnon Free Press
On Monday, West Virginia announced a new incentive program to encourage remote workers to move to its state. The program specifically targets outdoor enthusiasts who want to enjoy the many recreational areas that the state has to offer.
In a public-private program, the state is trying to curb the loss of population that it has experienced in recent years. Republican Governor Jim Justice reportedly attempted to increase the population through a large income tax cut, but the bill didn’t make it through the legislature. This most recent move might do more to lure young people to the area and entice them to stay.
The new program’s website explains the incentive, saying that the state will pay new residents $12,000 with “no strings attached.” Throughout the first year in town, new residents can expect to get $10,000 and then receive $2,000 in the second year. “Whether you put this $12,000 towards a new car for scenic drives down our country roads or a new mountain bike, it’s totally up to you,” the website states. “It’s true what they say: Money goes further in the mountains.”
The program also includes a year of free outdoor activities, such as whitewater rafting, downhill skiing, off-roading trips and more. The package is reportedly worth more than $2,500 for the free gear rentals and recreation alone.
The program capitalizes on the growing work-from-home culture that stemmed from the COVID-19 pandemic when many people were forced to stay inside their homes and away from workplaces and schools due to the threat of the coronavirus. With access to a free co-working space in the West Virginia town where residents move, participants in the program will be able to work in a “modern space” while also gaining access to networking and social events.
Participants can also benefit from the program’s connection to West Virginia University and earn a Remote Worker or Remote Manager Certification through the John Chambers College of Business and Economics at West Virginia University. People can also receive help from various resources in order to grow their business or launch a new one.
According to a Pew Charitable Trusts report from early 2019 that showed state population trends from 2008 to 2018, West Virginia was one of two states to see a decline. “West Virginia lost about 34,500 people since 2008, or the equivalent of 0.19 percent a year, and has recorded population losses for the past six years,” the report stated.
The new remote worker initiative was started with an investment from Brad and Alys Smith. Brad Smith is the executive chairman of Intuit’s board of directors and was raised in the Mountain State. He and his wife gave West Virginia University $25 million late last year, as reported by the Associated Press at the time. The donation was meant to help initiatives that included outdoor activities.
The Associated Press reported that Smith looked into different types of remote worker programs to see how the idea might be applied to his home state. He discovered that initiatives work when they provide essential needs and have options that attract young people, such as restaurants and entertainment. He also found that successful programs have something distinct that leads people to want to move there. For West Virginia, the unique factor is the ability to enjoy the outdoors.
“I think if they’ve had the chance to do the things that I had the chance to do growing up, they’re not going to want to go anywhere else,” Smith said.
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