- Associated Press - Sunday, January 10, 2021

FAIRMONT, W.Va. (AP) - Rocco Fucillo believes Marion County is a great place to live, not only for the quality of life and recreational opportunities it offers, but for its location in the U.S. as well.

Residents of West Virginia can explore rural and urban areas that offer natural landscapes and experience each of the four seasons, but people can get to major cities such as Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. in a few hours drive, and also fly out of several airports to other cities across the country.

“We are so close to where there is rail trails, kayaking, fishing, walking,” Fucillo said. “Nowhere in the entire eastern United States can compare to our area in West Virginia. Not only are we close to all the recreational opportunities, but we are in the center of all the other urban areas.”

The coronavirus pandemic has forced many people to go from working 9 to 5 in the office to working their schedule at home, which has presented more opportunity for flexibility in living. Fucillo and the Marion County Chamber of Commerce are capitalizing on this shift through a program called Marion Remote, which aims to sell Marion County, West Virginia as a good home for anyone to live and work in from around the country.

Chamber Board Chair Jonathan Board said Marion Remote is a chance to reinvigorate the love for West Virginia that many people only know through John Denver’s hit song “Take Me Home, Country Roads.”

“I would say this is definitely one of the most important projects for the Chamber in 2021, and frankly, probably for the entire county and communities that we serve,” Board said. “This has the opportunity to change for the better this entire region, and puts us on the very front edge of a new and emerging marketplace, so we are very excited about that.”

The Marion Remote Committee has created a video that shows off Marion County and its surrounding area. Fucillo said it was easy to make the video thanks to the perks Marion County has always had, and that all its creator had to do was get it on camera.

“We believe we have everything already necessary to get people to move to Marion County,” said Fucillo, chair of the Chamber’s Marion Remote Committee. “We sometimes don’t realize the assets we have; the quality of life, the recreation opportunities, the beauty, etc. So the whole point of the video is to promote Marion County so people see what a great, wonderful place it is to live.”

The Chamber of Commerce has posted a preview for the full video on its YouTube page, but Fucillo said the completed video will be shared on all social media platforms and on a special website for Marion Remote sometime next month.

Fucillo said the Marion Remote Committee has been collecting donations to make the full marketing campaign a reality, and has raised about half of its $32,000 goal through donations from the Marion County Commission, City of Fairmont, the Chamber of Commerce, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the High Tech Foundation and First Energy. Fucillo said Marion Remote has been able to raise so much money from these organizations because their leaders know this kind of project is an investment in the community.

“We think it’s a great investment for businesses, local government, corporations to invest in because it helps benefit everybody,” Fucillo said.

Chamber President Tina Shaw believes the marketing campaign will bring to the area people who value living in a place that has recreation and fun opportunities available outside of a career. She said many people in West Virginia as well have been working remotely for the past several months, so she can’t imagine how many people across the country are open for this kind of opportunity.

“Right now we just have the trailer out, so I am very excited to see the whole video knowing how much work went into it,” Shaw said. “The whole project is going to be great for Marion County. People are really embracing the whole Marion Remote concept, so we are excited too.”

According to Board, the video is aimed at anyone who began working from home during the pandemic, but young professionals especially are a target for the marketing campaign.

“There is so much offered in Marion County, and we are excited to bring that message to new folks who are now free to move to any area of the country and work remotely,” Board said. “Marion County is like none other, and it truly is in the middle of everywhere, so we are going to take that message to these folks, these really talented, young professionals, and try to capture their interest in things we know they like that Marion County has in abundance.”

Shaw said that after the Chamber of Commerce began work on the Marion Remote campaign, she and Board talked to West Virginia legislators about the project, who are interested in making a version that sells the whole state. Shaw said she is excited for Marion County to potentially be the model for the state to begin work on a project similar to Marion Remote.

“Going into this, we knew we were going to be a trailblazer,” Shaw said. “We were well on our way when all that information came out, so we are pretty excited that we are the prototype for the state, and we hope the legislature continues to support us.”

Board said there is no downside to creating the campaign, and he hopes to see it pay off once the video is finished and broadcast. Even people already living in Marion County stand to benefit because the migration of more people to the area can bring further economic change with them.

“It’s one of those rare opportunities where there really isn’t a downside,” Board said. “We are talking about bringing in a very talented group of individuals from all over the world and all over the country in particular, who are well-trained, good at their jobs, who love being part of a growing community. They will expand the tax base which is good for all of the towns in our county and will expand our marketplace.”

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