Ascend West Virginia opens applications for New River Gorge

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Ascend West Virginia opens applications for New River Gorge
The New River Gorge Bridge is the centerpiece of the Ascend WV program's newest region. (Photo: WVU Photo/Alyssa Reeves)

BECKLEY, W.Va. — , the state's premier talent attraction and retention program, announced its addition of the New River Gorge community to the program.

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Founded by West Virginia native Brad D. Smith and his wife Alys, the program will welcome a new group of adventurers to the state’s New River Gorge region, home to the country’s newest national park, offering them more than $20,000 in incentives — and a path to making “Almost Heaven” home.

The New River Gorge region joins a lineup of other communities that have welcomed nearly 300 new West Virginians while maintaining a 98% retention rate.

“Opening a new regional community is another great milestone for this program,” said Brad. D. Smith, co-founder of the and the president of Marshall University.

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“We have established four thriving locations, all of which continue to welcome new talent to our home among the hills, and the applications haven’t stopped pouring in since Ascend WV launched.

"We are excited to welcome this talented group of Ascenders as they join our growing family of new West Virginians who have found their next home in the Mountain State. It’s incredible to see the momentum continue to grow around this program and our great state.”

Beginning June 20, applications are being accepted for the New River Gorge community, in addition to the other four communities previously announced. The area is known for the nation’s newest national park, world-class outdoor recreation, untouched natural beauty, rich history, and small-town charm.

On the rim of the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, the community makes a perfect home base for adventures in the nearby park, Smith said.

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Alys Smith, co-founder of the foundation, emphasized the value of directing program participants to the New River Gorge region.

“Community, purpose, and the outdoors are the three core principles of this program,” Smith said.

“The Ascenders who have already made the move to West Virginia are truly planting their roots here and making a difference. We could not be more thrilled to open up West Virginia to more remote workers and look forward to welcoming them to our state’s renowned New River Gorge area.”

Ascend WV offers $12,000 cash and a year of free outdoor recreation

The Ascend WV program was made possible by a $25 million gift to the West Virginia University 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.

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Together with Governor Justice and his departments of Tourism and Economic Development, the collective team developed the only program in the country focusing on outdoor recreation opportunities for talent attraction and retention.

West Virginia University President E. Gordon Gee underscored the program's positive economic nature.

“I have long believed that when we look beyond our state’s challenges, we can find opportunities to ignite our economy, develop world-class recreational infrastructure and expand outdoor educational programs,” Gee said.

“The Ascend West Virginia program enables us to advance our state’s assets, rather than dwelling on our obstacles. And through this program, we are embracing innovation and engaging with those whose eyes are cast to the future.”

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Ascend WV participants experience West Virginia’s extraordinary landscapes, roaring rivers, and vibrant small towns

The Ascend West Virginia program includes these incentives:

  • Cash — $12,000 cash relocation incentive, paid in installments over a two-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 the WVU John Chambers College of Business and Economics entrepreneurship ecosystem.
  • Outdoor and Social Programming — Opportunity to participate in curated outdoor recreation excursions and social activities.

The program will welcome more than 1,000 remote workers to the state over the next six years. Applications are now open for all five program areas.

Beginning June 20, Ascend West Virginia is accepting applications for the New River Gorge, Greater Elkins, Morgantown Area, Eastern Panhandle, and Greenbrier Valley regions.

Chelsea Ruby, cabinet secretary of the West Virginia Department of Tourism, said the Ascend West Virginia program benefits from the internal and external positivity surrounding the state.

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“The growth of this program is a testament to the increased interest and positive buzz around West Virginia,” Ruby said.

“The residents of our mountain towns are some of the most warm and welcoming people you’ll find anywhere in the nation. They’re eagerly awaiting these new folks to move in. We encourage remote workers across the nation to find the vibrant community that fits their needs and apply for a chance to join the fun and talented Ascend members who have already made West Virginia home.”

The Ascend West Virginia program spans four regions of the state, each of which offers a unique setting to appeal to remote workers:

Greenbrier Valley

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Laid-back living along the idyllic Greenbrier River–and home to 203 mountain bike trails, 2,325 climbing routes, 138 paddling runs, and a booming arts scene.

Morgantown Area

Lively college town brimming with culture, innovation, and plenty of space to roam–boasting 94 paddling runs, nearly 200 mountain bike trails, and 1,400 climbing routes.

Eastern Panhandle

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Historic small towns with great proximity to the nation’s capital–197 mountain bike trails, 1684 climbing routes, 90 paddling runs coupled with an elevated, bustling arts and culture, new development, and hearty adventure along the Appalachian Trail.

Greater Elkins

Small town charm, music, and outdoor recreation meet here and provide a place to escape the hustle and bustle. Discover 176 mountain bike trails, 626 climbing routes, 123 paddling runs, West Virginia’s highest mountains, world-class fishing, and the Monongahela National Forest.

New River Gorge

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A community loved by avid nature enthusiasts and new explorers alike, the New River Gorge region is a perfect place to plant roots, with 142 mountain bike trails, 1,693 climbing routes, and 111 paddling runs on the New and Gauley rivers. Fayetteville, a centerpiece of the booming area, was rated one of the coolest small towns in America because of its array of local restaurants, scenic surrounding mountains, and recreational activities.


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