How about that recent, generous offer made by Brad and Alys Smith to draw young workers with remote positions to West Virginia? Beyond being a single piece of marketing genius, it could be the moment to become more self-confident in what we have to offer the rising generation.
Repeated, sustained efforts will be needed to go from being a forgotten part of the country to the next hip place to relocate. But Huntsville, Alabama, has done it. So has Roanoke, Virginia, and scores of other places nationally. Each place learned how to market their best assets with vigor until they became better known.
West Virginia’s tourism industry has been helping this along for several years. Those who need a quick escape into nature from Eastern and some Midwestern cities now know that West Virginia has a great deal to offer.
But the Smiths’ gambit goes beyond a weekend vacation and boldly asserts that West Virginia can be the kind of place a younger generation can move to and enjoy permanently.
What backs up this claim?
Wipe the slate clean in your mind. Forget all the backward-West Virginia jokes. Now ask yourself: What state in the Mid-Atlantic has our extraordinarily affordable housing and property taxes, low crime rate, reasonable electricity bills, small-town friendliness and enough undeveloped land to allow a newcomer to buy some extra, if desired?
Yes, school quality can vary from county to county. However, young parents can find the better ones before they buy a home here.
Plus, West Virginia’s central location on the Eastern seaboard allows for easy visits from or to family and friends, as well as business meetups.
These are all quite important considerations for young workers these days.
For example, my wife and I commuted for five years to Leesburg, Virginia, from Charles Town. What joy we shared upon finding that Charles Town offered us a relatively new, spacious home that would have cost us twice as much just over the border in Virginia.
One can put up with a few spring potholes after securing savings like that.
The advent of more remote positions nationally effectively makes all of West Virginia akin to border towns like Charles Town.
In addition to keeping our chins up and believing in what we have to offer, we do need one essential bit of infrastructure: the best internet access money can buy. West Virginia still lags in this area and, if we are going to sell ourselves as a remote worker paradise, then exceptional internet service is crucial.
But once quality internet access is fully established, West Virginia has plenty of positive, solid attributes to offer any young remote worker.
When enough of them have taken a chance on us and enjoying their quality of life in the Mountain State, we’ll finally join the Huntsvilles and Roanokes of the world.