Media Release - 6/14/2022


Nation’s premier remote worker recruitment program now accepting applications  for three communities, offering $12,000 cash and free outdoor recreation 

Lewisburg, WV (June 14, 2022) — Ascend West Virginia, the nation’s premier talent attraction and  retention program today announced its second class has begun the move to the Greenbrier Valley.  Founded by West Virginia native Brad D. Smith and his wife Alys, Ascend WV will provide these  pioneers more than $20,000 in incentives–and a path to “Almost Heaven.”  

The program, which began in April 2021, is quickly ramping up its recruitment efforts. Ascend WV also  today announced application openings for all three program locations: Morgantown Area, Greenbrier  Valley and the Eastern Panhandle.  

“What an incredible day for West Virginia, as we gear up to welcome these new men, women and their  families to the charming Greenbrier Valley region,” said Brad D. Smith, Co-Founder of the Wing 2 Wing  Foundation and President of Marshall University. “As a native West Virginian whose career has once  taken me away and now led me back to my home state, I couldn’t be more proud of the work we’ve  done to allow so many talented individuals the opportunity to work from the beautiful mountains of  West Virginia.”  

“We founded this program based on three principles: community, purpose and the outdoors. We’ve  been blown away by the first class that moved to Morgantown last year. They’ve settled in and become  true community members who now share in our passion and love for West Virginia. It’s been great  getting to know the first class, and I can’t wait to start getting to know the Greenbrier Valley’s newest  residents,” said Co-Founder Alys Smith.  

Meet West Virginia’s newest residents, the first class of the Greenbrier Valley 

Ascend WV’s second class has a diverse background and will bring a wide array of talents to their new  community. Though their work spans industries ranging from consulting to advertising to computer  systems design, they all share in a love for the great outdoors. 

More than 3,600 – just about the number of residents in Lewisburg – applied to make the move to the  Greenbrier Valley. The 33 selected hail from as far away as California and from 19 different U.S. states.  Each bringing a depth of education and professional experience, the average annual income of those  selected is approximately $125,000. Many of the new West Virginians are bringing their families along  with them; a total of more than 60 people will relocate to the Greenbrier Valley area when the class  makes its move.  

“All eyes are on West Virginia, and this program shows that our hard work is paying off. West Virginia  is quickly becoming a sought-after place to start a business, live in paradise, and raise a family. Cathy  

and I would like to be among the first to welcome these new residents to Almost Heaven, West  Virginia,” said Gov. Jim Justice.  

Among those choosing the modern mountain lifestyle found in West Virginia is Ben Isenberg, who is  coming to West Virginia from Maryland. Ben, a serial entrepreneur and owner of Symmetry Agency,  was one of the first to arrive in the Greenbrier Valley with his family, closing on a home just 30 days  after receiving his spot.  

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, my family and I set out to travel across the United States to  stretch our legs and experience nature. We traveled, camped and explored national parks across the  country in search of a place that would feel like our forever home. As new West Virginia residents, I am  proud to say that we have found just that and more in the Greenbrier Valley of West Virginia.”  

Also joining the class will be Andrew Neely, a native West Virginian. Neely, whose career in the Air  Force once took him away from his home state, says it’s a dream to return home. Neely is a modern day  Rocket Boy, recently working with NASA on the Artemis Project assisting in procurement & contracts  and in his most recent role as a Senior Contracts Manager with Primer AI, a San Francisco based  Artificial Intelligence company. 

“As a graduate of Greenbrier East High School, it feels like a dream come true to return home, said  Neely. “I’m an avid fisherman, paddler and biker, so West Virginia makes complete sense as the place  for me to put down roots. My dog, Darwin, is already loving the miles of trails and wide open space  he has to roam.”  

West Virginia relocation incentive offered to all applicants 

Even if they weren’t selected for the inaugural Greenbrier Valley class, all Ascend WV applicants  received some good news from the Ascend team: on average applicants will receive $3,500 in  mortgage assistance if they move to West Virginia. This offer, provided by Ascend WV in partnership  with Rocket Mortgage, is available to all who applied to the program earlier this year. See website for  pricing details 

“One of the most exciting parts of this program has been watching an incredible amount of interest  for West Virginia build across the nation and around the world. By partnering with Rocket Mortgage,  we’ve not had to tell a single one of our 10,000+ applicants ‘no.’ Thanks to our partnership with Rocket  Mortgage, every person who applies to the program gets an invitation to call the Mountain State home.  The best news of all? We are starting to see those moves happen as well,” said Brad D. Smith.  

Ascend WV’s acceptance rate for this second class was less than 1%, so applicants were also encouraged  to resubmit their application for subsequent classes and/or other locations. 

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 recruitment and attraction. 

“Ascend WV reflects the entrepreneurial-led approach our University has taken to drive economic  development as part of our land-grant mission,” West Virginia University President Gordon Gee said.  “I have enjoyed meeting members of the Morgantown cohort who came home to West Virginia or  decided to make this their home, and I am excited to see this wildly successful program expand in  other communities across the state.” 

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 2-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. 

“We are beyond excited to welcome our newest West Virginia residents to the Greenbrier Valley,” said  Danny Twilley, AVP for Economic, Community, and Asset Development at West Virginia University .  “When you combine vibrant communities with the growing outdoor recreation amenities you create an  unparalleled quality of life as the Mountain State becomes the premier location to live, work, and play.” 

Applications now open for all three program areas 

As Ascend West Virginia welcomes remote workers to the Greenbrier Valley, it is now accepting  applications for upcoming classes in the Morgantown Area, Eastern Panhandle and Greenbrier Valley. 

“The success of this program is a testament to the national interest and excitement around West 

Virginia as a state on the rise,” said Chelsea Ruby, Secretary of the West Virginia Department of  Tourism. “Our mountain towns are ready to welcome new residents, and we invite everyone to find the  vibrant community that fits your needs and apply for a chance to be a part of one of our next classes.”  

The Ascend WV program spans three 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   and 138 paddling runs.  
  • 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 the nation’s capital–elevated with   bustling arts and culture, new development and hearty adventure along the Appalachian Trail.  

Click here to learn more and begin your ascent. To view photos and access the media kit, click here