West’s influence on Cody grows

in Economic development/News

By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

The influence of rapper Kanye West on the community of Cody continues to grow after his purchase of a ranch in Park County.

West in 2019 bought the Monster Lake Ranch and made his first public appearance in Cody during his “Sunday Service” in August.

Since then, he has purchased the building that used to house Cody Laboratories, a manufacturer of generic prescription pain medication that closed in July, to create prototypes for his “Yeezy” shoe brand.

James Klessens, the chief executive officer for Forward Cody, said the building turned out to be a perfect match for West’s needs.

“He asked if there was available space,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “We showed him the space, magic was made, the deal was cut and they are right now working to set up a prototyping operation here in our community.”

Klessens pointed out that West is the latest celebrity to live in Cody, the first being western showman “Buffalo Bill” Cody, who the town is named for.

“I think it’s interesting that 100 years ago we had a global superstar lived in our community,” he said. “One hundred years later, we have another.”

Like Cody, West’s interests seem to expand beyond entertainment, Klessen said.

“Buffalo Bill was about newspapers and hotels and outfitting,” he said. “Mr. West is not only involved in the entertainment business … but he’s involved in this whole apparel and footwear making company and he has a great interest in sustainable housing and sustainable building practices.”

West’s efforts to develop his interests have not occurred without occasional bumps.

Earlier in the year, his representatives applied for a permit to build a 72,000 square-foot meditation center at his ranch. However, the permitting process was stopped when representatives told the Park County Planning and Zoning Commission that West wanted to add a residential aspect to the project.

“In adding residential, it changes the whole process it needs to be reviewed under and the permitting process,” said Park County Commissioner Dossie Overfield. “So that is when the Planning and Zoning commission denied the request just on the basis that it’s not now what he originally applied for.”

In addition, some questions surround how the development might proceed in the face of a new executive order from Gov. Mark Gordon regarding the protection of sage grouse habitat and mule deer migration corridors.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is working to determine whether the meditation center would disturb sage grouse habitat.

West also recently purchased the Bighorn Mountain Ranch near Greybull, although his representatives have not announced his plans for the property.

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