Council to vote on remote worker program

Jessica Farrish, The Register-Herald, Beckley, W.Va.
·2 min read

May 4—Beckley Common Council will vote during the regular May 11 meeting on whether to establish a $50,000 fund to attract remote workers to the area and to allocate a portion of Black Knight Municipal Park as "Remote Hub," a work space for remote workers.

Beckley-Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce CEO Michelle Rotellini offered a comprehensive Powerpoint presentation to Council during a workshop Monday evening. She explained that for the past four or five months, the Chamber has been developing a plan to bring remote workers to Raleigh County.

Rotellini unveiled the Chamber's new website, cometobeckley.com, which will draw those workers, who meet certain criteria, from other states to the Beckley area. Local Realtors may advertise for $500 as "relocation specialists" on the site, which was recently designed and is being developed by Cucumber and Company, a local web design and video production house.

To start the program, Council must approve a $50,000 pool, to be paid from the general fund. Money will be drawn down over a period of time as an incentive to remote workers, at a cap of $5,000 per worker.

The current plan calls for a section of Chilson's restaurant at Historic Black Knight Municipal Park to host a Remote Hub, or cybercafe, which offers remote workers a work station to be part of a community. The location also offers vaulted ceilings, a nine-hole golf course and patio seating.

Chilson's, a popular restaurant, will continue to operate under the plan.

Applications to the program will be reviewed by a specially established committee, according to Rotellini. She said workers must be 18 years old, must already be employed or have the ability to work, must reside outside of West Virginia and have the ability to come to Beckley, must submit to a background check and must agree to live in Beckley for a period of time, which will be determined later.

Under the proposed plan, the City of Beckley will manage the remote worker program.

"We're always wanting to bring more people in, but it doesn't mean we necessarily want to run this program through the Chamber," Rotellini told Council. "We want it to be a partnership with the city.

"We don't, necessarily, want that money to be in the Chamber of Commerce budget.

"It would be in the city's budget and be managed through the city."

Mayor Rob Rappold seemed supportive of the plan.

The City of Beckley was recently added as a host city to the Ascend WV program, a $25 million initiative to attract remote workers to the state. Overseen by the West Virginia Tourism office, Ascend WV first established Lewisburg, Morgantown and Shepherdstown as host cities. Later, Beckley was invited.

Cometobeckley.com will be linked to the Ascend WV webpage once it is fully developed, said Rotellini.