FAYETTE COUNTY, WV (WOAY) – A new program is trying to draw people into the state, and it is doing so by leveraging one of West Virginia’s best assets– its outdoor recreation.
Gov. Justice and tourism officials recently announced a new program that would specifically target outdoor enthusiasts working remotely to come into the state to live, a move that has some long-time residents concerned.
Bobby Bower, the owner of Pro River Outfitters, says, “I know it has nothing to do with the state that this private organization is doing this, but I think there are better ways that the money could be spent to benefit the people who are here and keep them from leaving, since like 13,000 leave every year.”
The program, Ascend, part of the Brad and Alys Smith Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative, have partnered with West Virginia University to grant participants of the program up to $12,000 dollars and a year’s worth of free passes to outdoor recreation destinations. And while some see this as a potential problem for residents, others see it as a positive economic boost for the state.
“I think that there’s a lot to offer for this part of the state, and to bring people from more metropolitan areas to southern West Virginia can only really help out the economy.”
But despite the program being a potential positive advantage for West Virginia that aims to link outdoor recreation with economic success, residents still think the state could be showing the people already here some more support.
Brandon Dent, a Fayetteville resident, says, “I can see some positive aspects of it because that’s bringing people here to spend money that they make elsewhere, but I don’t see how it is going to help West Virginia as a whole, because we’re not supporting the businesses in the state, and people trying to start small businesses, to, in turn, have employees and keep people in West Virginia.”
Nevertheless, using outdoor recreation and the state’s natural beauty as the prime selling point may just be what West Virginia needs to thrive.