Ten workers with jobs they can take anywhere are moving their families to Cambria or Somerset counties through a new remote worker incentive pilot program launched by the Cambria Regional Chamber, Somerset County Chamber of Commerce and the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies.
So far, eight candidates have been accepted, and organizers welcomed them with a reception Wednesday at Balance Restaurant, 415 Main St., Johnstown.
The remote workers selected for the initial round of grants include a cybersecurity specialist from Benbrook, Texas; an occupational safety specialist from Pittsburgh; a credit counselor from Collins, Colorado; a financial adviser from New York City; a wellness entrepreneur from Hawthorne, California; a video editor from Pikesville, Maryland; a finance specialist from Pittsburgh; and a legal eDiscovery specialist from Imperial, Allegheny County.
The program began with an idea last fall, and the flood of applicants has been overwhelming, said Amy Bradley, president and CEO of the Cambria Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Bradley said she is still getting applicants, but more funding has to be raised to provide grants for a second round.
The Work from Home Cambria-Somerset program gives those who relocate a $2,500 grant that can be used for a down payment on a home or to cover moving expenses. In return, the grantees must agree to live in the region for at least a year and maintain their status as a remote worker.
Reggie Canal, a financial adviser, moved from New York City to downtown Johnstown.
“I’m very excited to contribute to the redevelopment strategy for downtown Johnstown,” Canal said.
Not only has he moved to Johnstown to work remotely, he’s purchased a building at 126 Market St., which he plans to open as a cafe offering experiences including poetry slams, art, coffee and quick meals.
Community Foundation for the Alleghenies President Mike Kane said the program was established to capture some of the many people who now find themselves able to work remotely from any location.
“This pilot program has proven to be very successful,” Kane said. “We feel strongly that our location has a lot to offer, and based on the quick and significant response, many people agree.”
Christian Beabes, a wellness entrepreneur, moved from California to Johnstown’s Geistown neighborhood. As a child of a Navy veteran, she traveled all over the United States, but calls Johnstown home and moved into the house her grandfather built.
“I have always wanted to raise a family outside of the city in a place where everybody knows your name, and Geistown is definitely a place like that,” she said. “I believe there is a lot of room for growth in this area and I’m ready to grow.”
Since the pandemic, an increasing number of companies are allowing workers to work from home, Bradley said.
“Studies show anywhere from 14 to 23 million Americans are planning to move as a result of remote work,” Bradley said. “The highest-priced markets are being hit the hardest. Many people are looking for more space, more affordable housing and outdoor recreation, something our region can clearly offer.”
Michael Baughman, a finance specialist, moved from Pittsburgh to Hidden Valley with his wife Kristen and their three sons.
“We have always enjoyed the Somerset area and the outdoor activities it has to offer,” he said. “This region is a great place to raise a family.”
David Berman, a cybersecurity specialist, moved from Benbrook, Texas, to Somerset County. His family has roots in Somerset, and he’s moving back “home” with his wife and seven of their nine children.
“I am now able to work remotely and came back home to raise our children in this beautiful area and to enable our one daughter to receive a lifesaving intestinal transplant in Pittsburgh,” Berman said. “The community has embraced our family wholeheartedly, and we have not wasted one day sitting in the house, but outside living our best life. We have canoed at Laurel Hill State Park, paid honor to the heroes at Flight 93, enjoyed many local restaurants, hiked several local trails and plugged into a local church that we are loving.”
Video editor Wayne Nash moved from Pikesville, Maryland, to Westmont with his wife.
“I’m also a musician that sings and plays bass,” Nash said. “I like the Cambria/Somerset region, especially Johnstown, because of the nice mix of being a larger town with access to lots of beautiful parks without being big city.”