Pennies From (Almost) Heaven: Get Paid To Move To West Virginia

Originally published on May 11, 2021 8:04 pm
Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

When the pandemic began and lots of people moved to remote work, some also moved full stop to new places - places they would rather live in far from the offices they had long been tied to.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHN DENVER SONG, "TAKE ME HOME, COUNTRY ROADS")

CHANG: A program called Ascend West Virginia hopes to draw people to the Mountain State and might pay them to move there - $12,000 plus free access to lots of outdoor recreation gear for excursions into the Blue Ridge Mountains or maybe the Shenandoah River.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TAKE ME HOME, COUNTRY ROADS")

JOHN DENVER: (Singing) Shenandoah River.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The idea came from Brad Smith, former CEO of Intuit, who many may know for the TurboTax program. And we should note Intuit is an NPR sponsor.

BRAD SMITH: I grew up in West Virginia, and I refer to it as the house that built me.

KELLY: Smith noticed - and this was long before COVID - a trend of remote workers taking it upon themselves to work from wherever they wanted - as Smith puts it, rural becoming the new urban.

SMITH: And this idea really germinated in 2017, when we noticed multiple states competing for Amazon's second headquarters. And after being disqualified, several states took the initiative into their hands and said, well, I'm going to find a way to attract employees if I can't attract the company.

CHANG: He studied similar programs in other states and talked about his early idea for a remote worker program in public appearances. Greg Corio and Danny Twilley from West Virginia University happened to be in one of those audiences.

DANNY TWILLEY: Greg and I gave each other this long stare of being like, this could work for West Virginia. This could be a game-changer for the state.

SMITH: West Virginia University approached me and said, we have an outdoor economic development collaborative. We would love to talk to you about partnering on creating a remote worker program. That's when I said, wow, we've got to get this going.

KELLY: And thus, with a hefty donation from Smith, Ascend West Virginia was born. Greg Corio and Danny Twilley hope the program will lure people with jobs they can do remotely to West Virginia and, in time, foster economic growth, new business ideas and meaningful connections in the state.

TWILLEY: We all have the goal of helping West Virginia and West Virginians.

CHANG: If all of this has you wondering, how do I sign up, well, you should know that the program is only for people who are currently fully employed outside of West Virginia and eligible to work remotely.

KELLY: Yeah. And in order to get the full $12,000, you have to live in West Virginia for two consecutive years - a heartbeat, really. It's almost heaven after all.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TAKE ME HOME, COUNTRY ROADS")

DENVER: (Singing) Dark and dusty, painted on the sky, misty taste of moonshine, teardrop in my eye. Country roads, take me home to the place I belong. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.