The Baughman and Berman families moved from Pittsburgh and Texas, respectively, to Somerset County recently for different reasons but with the same expectations — spending more time with family and enjoying a great quality of life at a reasonable cost.
The two families are part of a group of eight individuals who have been accepted into a remote worker incentive program offered by the Cambria Regional Chamber, Somerset County Chamber of Commerce and the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies.
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The remote workers were officially welcomed to the region on July 28 during an evening reception at the Balance Restaurant on Main Street in Johnstown.
The Work from Home Cambria/Somerset program invited remote workers living outside the local area to apply for the opportunity to take up residence in Cambria or Somerset counties. Each individual who was accepted into the program received a $2,500 grant to help pay for housing and moving costs, along with additional benefits to introduce them to the area’s amenities. In return, the individual must commit to live here for at least one year and continue working remotely during that time.
About 40 people applied for the 10 grants available, said Amy Bradley, president and CEO of the Cambria Regional Chamber.
“We have more people interested but only have funding for the first 10,” she said. “If a company would want to sponsor $2,500 to bring someone here, we could do more.”
Three of the eight individuals accepted to the program thus far are making their homes in Somerset County.
Michael Baughman family
Michael and Kristen Baughman, and their three sons, decided to accept the offer and move to Hidden Valley from the South Hills section of Pittsburgh. The family enjoys an active lifestyle, Michael Baughman said, and they wanted to experience the area’s many outdoor activities with their young boys.
“My wife and I always had the desire to live in this area, and we thought about retiring here,” he said. “Once I started working from home (because of the pandemic), we started to realize that once you can do your job from anywhere, we can live wherever we want.
“We always enjoy the skiing and outdoor activities of this area, so we thought, why not get a jump start on what we want to do in retirement, but enjoy it with our kids while they’re young?”
Their boys were sold on the idea from the beginning, Baughman said. Kristen Baughman is originally from this area and being closer to her side of their family was a big plus. Their children have also made friends in their new neighborhood and through summer baseball.
“They wanted to do it before we did,” he said. “They were on board before we were.”
The idea also appealed to Michael’s parents, who live in North Carolina but have since purchased a home at Hidden Valley as well. They plan to stay here seasonally and enjoy spending time with the rest of the family.
“We went from a situation where we weren’t close to any family, to now there are times we have everybody here,” Baughman said. “My kids just said to my parents, ‘We used to have to get on a plane or drive 10 hours to see you, and now we can just walk across the street.’”
Working remotely from home has worked out great as well, he said.
“I get a lot of work done. I feel more productive. I’m one of those people that gets up and gets going, and I work more hours at home, to be honest.
“For me, the hardest thing as a parent is, ‘How am I going to get my kid where they need to go after school?’ Now that I’m home, I probably work more hours because the time I (spent) commuting, I’m working.”
Baughman said that so far, his family’s experience has surpassed their expectations.
“There’s too many good things to do,” he said. “We run out of time before we run out of things to do. There’s so many things we want to try, so many places we want to go.”
David Berman family
David and Cynthia Berman moved to Somerset Borough with seven of their nine children, after living the last 27 years in Benbrook, Texas, a suburb of Fort Worth.
The Bermans were already planning to move to the Somerset area to be closer to UPMC Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh, where their 20-year-old daughter is currently on the transplant list, awaiting a lifesaving intestinal transplant.
David Berman grew up near New Centerville and graduated from Somerset Area High School, so he has family and friends back here who let them know about the area’s new remote worker incentive program.
“The biggest factor was our daughter,” he said. “Also, with COVID forcing us to work from home, we (decided) it was time to do this (move to Pennsylvania). And we decided as long as we were moving to Pennsylvania, let’s move to Somerset. It’s close enough for her to be on the (transplant) list and we might as well be around friends and family.
“We’re still unboxing and getting stuff situated, but overall it’s been great.”
Berman works remotely as an independent contractor in cyber security and the children attend cyber school, so they have been able to adapt quite easily to their new environment, he said.
“Once we got up here, we met with some of my friends growing up so they have friends the same age. We were able to get connected really quick, and they’ve really embraced it.”
In Somerset County, the Bermans were able to purchase a much larger home for their family and still pay less per month than they did in Texas, he said. Internet access has been excellent as well.
“Actually, it’s been wonderful,” he said. “Being right in the borough, we have gigabit internet and that’s what we had in Texas. So the transition has been (seamless).”
Lyndsay Delozier, a legal e-discovery specialist, is also returning to her Somerset County roots. She is in the process of moving from Imperial, in Allegheny County, to Hollsopple.
Delozier was unable to attend the welcome reception, but in her application for the Work from Home program, she said that the local people, the lower cost of living and the traditional values of the region have influenced her desire to return.
“Simply put, I grew up here and I belong here,” she said. “I couldn’t wait to leave when I was a teenager and in my early twenties. However, as I reached 30 — and now 40 — I couldn’t wait to come back.
“My job can be demanding and highly stressful. However, balancing my off-work hours with the peacefulness, outdoor activities and safety of this area keeps me motivated to be successful.”
The remote worker incentive program was the result of a collaborative effort of business and community leaders from both counties, who came to realize that this area offers an exceptional quality of life that people who can work from any location are searching for.
Michael Baughman would agree.
“It’s a brilliant idea,” he said. “To bring this many people to the region that have families and are professionals and stimulate income, it’s a great idea. It really is. It’s been a great experience so far.”