A newly formed partnership between West Virginia University, the West Virginia Department of Tourism and local officials has the potential to bring new growth and development to Lewisburg, Greenbrier County and the greater southern West Virginia region.
Lewisburg was chosen by the West Virginia University Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative as one of three communities across the state to be a location for its remote worker recruitment program.
The other two communities selected were Morgantown and Shepherdstown.
“We had no idea they were even looking at us for this program,” said Greenbrier County Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Kara Dense. “What an honor.”
According to Dan Twilley, assistant dean of the Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative, Lewisburg provided many factors making it one of the first communities selected for this program.
Those qualities included a “vibrant main street and arts scene” and being a conveniently geographically located town to the New River Gorge and the Monongahela National Forest and Snowshoe, Twilley said.
“Lewisburg has a pulse and it has energy,” Twilley said. “With what we are trying to do with the program, Lewisburg just made a ton of sense.”
Twilley said the remote worker program will be aimed at recruiting people from across the nation to choose West Virginia to live and work among the Mountain State’s scenic beauty.
“This program has the potential to create new West Virginians,” Twilley said. “If we can get people to visit here, why not get them to live here.”
This partnership between WVU and the West Virginia Tourism Office will create a new kind of marketing campaign, one that doesn’t ask people to visit West Virginia but one that asks remote workers to live here.
The program will look to recruit folks looking to leave life in the big city to the refreshing beauty of West Virginia. West Virginia has a quality of life that’s hard to replicate anywhere else, Twilley stated.
The recruitment program is solely to market West Virginia as a place to live, recreate and work remotely. One thing the WVU’s remote worker program will not do is employ those who apply.
“That’s the coolest part of this initiative,” Twilley said. “We’re not employing anyone. They can live here and work anywhere.”
Besides recruiting new residents to West Virginia, the program will also seek to bolster the outdoor recreation opportunities around the selected communities of Lewisburg, Morgantown and Shepherdstown.
Despite the numerous opportunities for outdoor recreation around Lewisburg with short(ish) drives to Pocahontas County and the New River Gorge National Park, Twilley said the program will hope to provide funds to communities like Lewisburg for new trail systems, rock climbing opportunities and more to increase the town’s own outdoor opportunities.
Twilley also confirmed as the initiative was being formulated, they began working with Lewisburg city officials like Mayor Beverly White, the Greenbrier County Commission and the Greenbrier County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Greenbrier County Commissioner Tammy Tincher stated the group has met with the commission a few times but a lot of talks were very preliminary.
“We’ve done a few zoom meetings and had some early discussions with the folks at WVU,” White said. “But we’re very excited for this project and can’t wait to see the end result.”
Dense reiterated Tincher’s and White’s comments that much of what has been discussed is preliminary.
“Everything is in the very early stages, we’ve had a couple of group meetings but that’s about it,” Dense said who will be serving as a liaison between WVU and the commission and city of Lewisburg.
But Dense said the potential of this project and marketing campaign is huge.
“We’re going to do everything we can to put our best foot forward,” Dense said.
As Dense expressed surprise that Lewisburg was selected she stated that the honor was not undeserving.
“The fact that we were selected is one of the rewards of this community’s hard work over the years to develop this region,” Dense said. “From the benefits of Carnegie Hall and Greenbrier Valley Theatre, the development of tourism here creates a quality of life unmatched.”