CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – The most recent census told us that 60,000 people left West Virginia in the past decade.

But a new program launched six months ago shows promise in turning that tide.

The first phase of West Virginia’s plan to attract remote workers from other states is being called a success.

So far, 11,000 people have applied for the first 75 positions, most of which have been filled. The effort known as “Ascend West Virginia” was born from the remote worker phenomenon caused by Covid-19.

West Virginia’s newest workers call quality of life a big payoff.

“Coming from Chicago, I was in a 618 square feet apartment with my boyfriend, who also worked from home, and my 80 pound dog. So, we were very, very cramped. Changing that, coming here, I can be in nature within minutes of closing my laptop at the end of the day”, says Quintina Mengyan, Ascend West Virginia worker.

It’s even prompting some native West Virginians to come home.

“Now that we are back in West Virginia, we’re getting the same sort of requests from people: ‘Hey, when are you going to let me come spend the night at your house?'”, remarks Shane Powers, who moved back to West Virginia from Washington, D.C.

Within the next five years, Ascend West Virginia hopes to attract 1,000 remote workers and their families – perhaps more.

“Going into the pandemic, there was already a large number of individuals who were allowed to live anywhere they want to do their job. Coming out of the pandemic, that number has escalated to as much as one-third of the nation’s workforce”, comments Brad Smith, Ascend West Virginia founder.

Officials say another reason remote workers are choosing West Virginia is the sheer beauty of the mountain state, and the real chance to experience four seasons that you might not experience in a big city.

The state’s vast array of recreational activities is cited by many of the new workers as a big reason for wanting to come here.

The remote workers who are chosen in the “Ascend West Virginia” program get a 12,000 dollar bonus as an incentive to move here.