“An rising space”: The work-from-home initiative has distant employees on the doorstep of the Cambria-Somerset area

Thirteen remote workers in seven different states applied for grants to move to the Cambria-Somerset area this week, said Amy Bradley, president of the Cambria Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Applications for 10 available work-from-home grants opened on April 29th.

“All along, we thought that if this works, it might be a program we want to expand,” said Bradley. “And based on that early answer, I would say it will be successful.”

Amy Bradley

She said that attracting a group of remote workers is equivalent to recruiting a small business into the city: “If we can get 40 to 60 people to bring their jobs and not take jobs, they will come on an income that goes into the community. “

The recruitment is a collaboration between the Cambria Regional Chamber, Somerset County Chamber, Johnstown’s Vision Together 2025 initiative, and the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies.

Formerly called Choose Johnstown! In the initial phase, the recruiting initiative is called WFH Cambria-Somerset. The acronym stands for “work from home”.

Each accepted candidate will receive $ 2,500 to offset moving expenses and an additional $ 2,500 in a benefit package tailored to their unique needs and interests, including symphony tickets, baseball tickets, gym membership, and certificates for meals in and for local restaurants Outdoor recreational trips such as skiing or rafting.

Bradley said a committee will select recipients, but a timeframe has not yet been set.

So far, applicants have come from Ohio, New Hampshire, Texas, Florida, California, Colorado, and New Jersey, and there are two from Pennsylvania but outside the Cambria-Somerset area, Bradley said. Eligible applicants cannot be from Cambria, Somerset or any county bordering one of these counties.

“The idea is to attract people from outside of state and the majority of applicants are people from outside of state,” she said.

Bradley said common themes emerging from applicants include wanting to be closer to family, hiking trails and trails, outdoor recreation, lower housing costs, and easy walking.

WFH Cambria-Somerset partners developed the grant package in consultation with Deborah Smith Cook, founder and CEO of Atheseus, a Washington, DC-based company that helps companies solve problems, including managing a remote workforce. Their research shows that even as the COVID-19 pandemic decreases in intensity, the economy is likely to continue to gravitate towards remote working.

Bradley says applicants to date include accounts payable employees, cybersecurity employees, financial advisors, financial analysts, virtual assistants, and security managers. Their salaries, she said, are between $ 35,000 and $ 114,000.

“It’s interesting to see how diverse the jobs are that are now completely remote,” she said.

Bradley stressed that the WFH Cambria-Somerset program was not taking jobs away from local residents.

“It’s the exact opposite,” she said. “We bring people to the region who have family-supporting, well-paid jobs that will contribute to the region.”

Jessica Satava, executive director of the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra, said she sees the program as an investment in the city’s future.

“I think what we have here is amazing and all we have to do is find a way to share it,” she said. “This is a great way to share good news about the amenities we have here in Johnstown.”

Satava moved from Baltimore to Johnstown in 2019.

“The variety and quality of outdoor activities, arts, restaurants and cultural events is amazing,” she said. “My organization is one of many amazing art galleries, creative studios, jazz clubs and theaters here. There is no end to what exists here in the art scene. Once we are able to tell the story of what is going on here, the area will be blown up. “

Jay and Nikki Forde moved to Johnstown from Seattle last October before the remote worker program was established. Jay runs his website design company from her home in the city’s West End.

The couple worked at the Milton Hershey School in Hershey for two years, exploring cities in Pennsylvania.

“We saw the story of Johnstown online and did the revitalization work of Vision Together 2025, so we took a trip once to make a drive through,” he said.

Johnstown’s proximity to major cities on the east coast is also a draw, he said.

“Now that they are giving away the remote worker grants, we’re excited to see other people moving here,” he said. “I encourage people looking for a small town to give Johnstown a look. It is an emerging area that would benefit from the new energies. “

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