Charleston: West Virginia is joining the growing list of places recruiting remote workers — with a thrill-seeking twist. A public-private programme will try to lure outdoor enthusiasts to live in the rural state with enticements of cash and free passes for recreational destinations.
The goal is to leverage one of West Virginia’s most appealing assets, its epic natural beauty, to stem the tide of population loss in the only state that has fewer residents now than in 1950.
Under the programme, out-of-state participants who move to West Virginia will receive $12,000 along with passes for a year to indulge in whitewater rafting, golf, rock climbing, horseback riding, skiing, ziplining and other activities. The full relocation package is valued at more than $20,000.
Some of the state’s popular destinations include the nation’s newest national park in the New River Gorge, trails and cliffs at Seneca Rocks, and several resorts both with golf courses and ski areas.
“We want to give folks the opportunity to escape big cities,” a state tourism cabinet member said.
“In West Virginia, there are no crowded places, long commutes or traffic jams. There’s just plenty of places to put down roots and explore the great outdoors.”
Several other states and US cities have launched a variety of remote worker programmes, including a popular project hatched by a billionaire philanthropist in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 2018.
The coronavirus pandemic sent the work-from-home concept into the stratosphere over the past year with tens of millions of employees temporarily or permanently pushed out of their offices. West Virginia officials are counting on that to continue.
Participants whose employers are based elsewhere will be given access to work spaces set up in three communities selected earlier this year as remote networking hubs. These hubs will connect them with entrepreneurs and state business leaders.