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JCPenney Places Original Kemmerer Store Up For Auction

in Business/News
5547

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Department store chain J.C. Penney Co. has placed its original store in Kemmerer up for auction, according to Forbes.

The company filed for bankruptcy in May and was given until the end of July to formulate a business plan that would appease the court and its own creditors.

On Friday, the company released that plan, known as the “JCPenney Disposition Portfolio.” The document listed 142 leased locations and 21 company-owned stores that are scheduled for a mid-September auction. These locations were targeted for closure to help facilitate the company’s sale as part of the court proceedings.

The Kemmerer store was one of the 21 company-owned locations listed for auction. Forbes stated that the store will likely be liquidated and sold after the auction.

The Kemmerer location is known as the “Mother Store” and has been in continuous operation since the company’s founding in 1902 by James Cash Penney. When it first opened, the store was known as the “Golden Rule Store.” The building is part retail store, part museum.

The bidding date for the Kemmerer location is Sept. 9. Forbes couldn’t find a particular reason for the company’s officials deciding to auction the store, and representatives were also unable to provide further details on it.

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Dubois’ $100 Million National Military Museum To Open On August 7

in arts and culture/Business/Coronavirus/News
5233

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By Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily

The gigantic new National Museum of Military Vehicles will finally open on Aug. 7.

The museum, located just south of Dubois, originally planned to open in May but was postponed because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

“We are opening the museum Friday, Aug. 7, at 10 a.m.,” founder Dan Starks said. “Admission will be free for the first three days. After that normal admission of $15 will be charged, except for veterans, who will get in free.” Under 18 is $10 admission with under 8 years old getting in for free.

“Face masks and social distancing is required so we can keep all of our older veterans safe,” he said. “We will still be working on finishing some of the exhibits but we have gotten tired of turning everyone away who wants to come inside. We are staffing up and training for the opening.”

The $100 million self-funded project has been a dream of Starks, who bought his first Wyoming property in 2011.

Construction on the new museum started in May of 2017. It is a 140,000 square foot facility, which is designed to hold 200 military vehicles.

But it is much more than a display of vehicles.



Starks is not a veteran but said he has such a high degree of respect for those who served, he sees this project as his life work.

He worked 32 years at a medical equipment company in Minneapolis and was CEO before retiring in 2017. The company was doing $6 billion in revenue per year. He had 28,000 employees working on life-saving devices for the human body, specializing in heart catheters and other devices.

“At one time, we figured our devices were saving a life every three seconds around the world,” he says.

His company was acquired by Abbott Laboratories in 2017. Their web site shows Starks owns over $600 million in stock in the big international company and serves on its board.

The life dream of Dan and his wife Cynthia was to settle in Dubois and do some project to recognize the service of America’s veterans.  

And boy, is this ever some project.

Using Richardson Construction of Cheyenne as a general contractor, the project has hummed along on schedule.  And although the gigantic size of the facility, (you can almost put three football fields inside its walls), Starks now worries that it might be too small. 

They own more than 400 of the most pristine historical vehicles from World War II and other conflicts. He thinks he might only get 200 of them inside the walls. It is assumed to be the largest and best private collection in the world.  

The Starks’ daughter Alynne is the executive director of the facility. Admission will be $15 for adults and $10 for visitors under 18.  Veterans will be admitted for free. The museum will employ 20 people. 

Their plan for the museum has gone far beyond just a place to display vehicles. “We want to create displays that show the landing at Normandy, the surrenders in Germany and Japan, the Battle of the Bulge, and other great moments in our country’s military history,” he says. 

Dan sees the facility having three components:

  • To honor the service and sacrifice of millions of Americans.
  • Preserve the history of what happened during these wars.
  • Provide an educational experience. 

The vast array of vehicles goes beyond the killing machines of tanks, artillery, and flamethrowers.  It also includes dozens of the machines that made the wars winnable. 

Starks likes to discuss how the Red Ball Express helped secure the victories. This was the supply chain that seemed to provide endless amounts of food, ammo, and war machines as Allied troops marched toward victory.

He wants to show how America was able to convert its massive manufacturing expertise to enable the Allies to fight two different wars in different parts of the world and win both in just three and a half years.  

The new museum will show how the American ability to mass-produce cars and trucks was converted to produce tanks, jeeps, airplanes, and other war machines in record amounts that just wore down the enemy.  

“Germany built beautiful machines, but they did not understand mass production like Americans did. It was impossible for them to keep up when it came to replacing and resupplying their troops at key moments in World War II. We want to honor everyone who participated in this great victory. This museum will showcase that effort but showing the machines that were built and how they were utilized,” he said. 

Near the middle of the building’s interior is an amazing vault, unlike anything west of the Smithsonian. It will hold his $10 million collection of historical weapons, including a rifle fired at Custer’s Last Stand and a pistol used by General Pershing in World War I.

The collection includes 270 Winchester rifles. The vault has a safe door that would look just right at the national mint. 

The facility will have meeting rooms and members of the Wyoming legislature are convening there in October.

It also has the Chance Phelps Theatre, named for the brave Dubois Marine who died April 9, 2004 in Iraq.  The movie Taking Chance was about that soldier.

There will be large library with one of the world’s largest collections of manuals and other information about military vehicles.

There is even a Russian-built MiG 21 that was used in the Vietnam War against American soldiers. It is flyable.  

Besides the main museum facility, the Starks built a large building just off Main Street in Dubois to hold many of their vehicles and to be a shop to keep them running. 

Eight years ago, their first home in Dubois was an old homestead. More recently they have purchased a 250-head cattle ranch. Recently they bought a third ranch, which now has 64 bison grazing on it. 

“We love Dubois and we love Wyoming. This is our great adventure,” Starks concluded. 

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More Than 3,800 Wyoming Businesses Get $95 Million In Relief

in Business/Coronavirus/News
Man working at desk, going over analytics, ALT=Wyoming supplemental budget
5422

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

As the first of three state coronavirus relief program nears its end, the state has delivered more than $95 million to more than 3,800 businesses, according to Wyoming Business Council figures.

Figures posted on the state’s transparency website show that as of July 16, almost $95.2 million had been delivered to 3,812 businesses under the state’s Business Interruption Stipend program.

The program was one of three created by the Legislature to put money given the state under the federal coronavirus relief program in the hands of businesses whose operations were disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Business Interruption Stipend made up to $50,000 available for Wyoming companies employing fewer than 50 that lost money because of public health orders issued to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The program opened on June 8 and applications for assistance were accepted until July 2. The first of the grants were delivered to businesses on June 10 and the deliveries continued daily until July 16.

Tom Dixon, a spokesman for the WBC, which manages the program, said a few applications are still being reviewed.

When the program began, officials planned to distribute a total of $50 million, but it soon became clear applications would exceed that amount, so Gov. Mark Gordon moved another $50 million into the program.

According to state figures, 988 businesses have so far obtained the maximum $50,000 grant, many of them restaurants, bars and entertainment companies, such as roller skating rinks, bowling alleys and movie theaters. The state’s public health orders closed such businesses for several weeks.

Other businesses receiving the maximum grant included law firms, medical clinics and dental clinics.

Some of the companies receiving the maximum grant in the latest payout included Carpets Plus in Green River, Khan Hotel Investments in Gillette, Ancora Law in Cody and Evolution Fitness in Sinclair.

The WBC has finished its rules for the next relief program, the “Wyoming Business Relief” program, which the agency said will open soon.

Under the program, companies employing up to 100 people — as well as nonprofit agencies — will be able to apply for grants of up to $300,000 to offset losses they suffered because of public health orders or coronavirus-related expenses, such as the costs for extra cleaning.

The third program, the “Mitigation Fund” will pay companies up to $500,000 to reimburse them for employee and customer health and safety expenses directly related to the coronavirus.

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Kanye West Seeks Approval To Use Cody Labs For Yeezy Manufacturing

in Business/Kanye West/News
Kanye West
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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

An engineering firm is seeking approval for plans to turn a building formerly owned by a defunct pharmaceutical manufacturer into a manufacturing facility for musician Kanye West’s Yeezy fashion brand.

The Cody Planning and Zoning Board was asked by Engineering Associates to approve its application for modifications of the building that used to house Cody Laboratories for the manufacturing of Yeezy apparel and shoes.

“The modifications primarily related to removal of items that are not needed for the new use, rearranging parking and utilities, and slightly modified site grading,” said a report on the plans by Todd Stowell, Cody’s city planner.

Cody Laboratories closed in July 2019 before it could complete work on what was to be a pharmaceutical product facility and warehouse.It was announced early this year that West had purchased the building and planned to use it to create prototypes for the Yeezy shoe brand.

After West purchased the building, James Klessens, the chief executive for Forward Cody, told the Cowboy State Daily the building was a perfect fit for West’s needs.

Stowell recommended the board approve the application as long as some technical conditions are met having to do with issues including water lines, utilities and landscaping.

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Wyoming Business Alliance’s Governor’s Business Forum Cancelled Until 2021

in Business/Coronavirus/News
Governors Business Alliance
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The 2020 Governor’s Business Forum, originally scheduled to be held this fall, has been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Wyoming Heritage Foundation and Wyoming Business Alliance announced Friday.

The forum has been put on every year since 1982 to provide a platform for the discussion of Wyoming’s economy by a wide array of Wyoming officials and business leaders.

The 2019 forum was held in Cheyenne and featured speakers from all over the state. Many of the topics focused on how Wyoming should prepare for challenges of the future.

Cindy DeLancey, president of the Business Alliance/Heritage Foundation, said organizers could not see a way to hold the event while observing precautions to avoid the spread of coronavirus.

“Moving forward with a large, indoor forum is just not feasible this year,” she said in a news release. “Over the last several months, the management team, board and vendors have vetted possible scenarios of how to hold an indoor meeting with our statewide business community responsibly. None of the scenarios met our criteria for holding the state’s premier business event, so we had to make a tough decision. We will work hard to hold an incredible forum in the fall of 2021, and it will be better than ever.”

The Wyoming Business Alliance serves as the state’s premier business advocate, with a mission of promoting and advocating a growing economy by connecting business leaders from across Wyoming, representing business interests and issues and partnering with key business organizations and trade associations.

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Amazon: Wyoming Tops List Of States With Most Digital Entrepreneurs

in Business/News
Wyoming Business Council
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming is ranked fourth in an Amazon listing of states with the most digital entrepreneurs per capita in the nation.

Amazon, in a news release Thursday, said Wyoming has more than 1,000 small- to medium-size businesses or SMBs selling in its stores, giving it one of the nation’s highest per capita rankings for digital entrepreneurs.

The other states in the top five that have the most SMBs per capita reaching customers in Amazon’s stores include Iowa, Delaware, California and New Jersey.

Nationally, 47 states are home to more than 1,000 third-party sellers, mostly SMBs, and 26 states have more than 5,000 third-party sellers.

Amazon’s announcement comes ahead of the release of its 2020 SMB Impact Report, which will unveil more new data on the growth SMBs selling in Amazon’s stores have seen in the past 12 months.

The company said Iowa tops the list of sales increase in the past year with growth of 57%

“Iowa is home to thousands of small and medium-sized businesses selling in Amazon’s stores, and we’re working hard to support their growth despite the global pandemic,” said Keri Cusick, head of small business empowerment at Amazon, in a news release. “Both top 10 lists we revealed today demonstrate innovation in every corner of the country, with states like Iowa, Delaware, Wyoming, and Alabama coming out on top.”

The top 10 states with the most digital entrepreneurs per capita:

  1. Iowa – with nearly 10,000 SMB sellers
  2. Delaware – with over 3,000 SMB sellers
  3. California – with over 100,000 SMB sellers
  4. Wyoming – with over 1,000 SMB sellers
  5. New Jersey – with over 20,000 SMB sellers
  6. Vermont – with over 1,000 SMB sellers
  7. New York – with nearly 50,000 SMB sellers
  8. Utah – with over 7,000 SMB sellers
  9. New Hampshire – with over 3,000 SMB sellers
  10. Florida – with over 50,000 SMB sellers

The top 10 states with the fastest year-over-year growth by digital entrepreneurs:

  1. Iowa – 57% growth
  2. Washington – 56% growth
  3. Alabama – 53% growth
  4. Virginia – 50% growth
  5. Louisiana – 49% growth
  6. Georgia – 45% growth
  7. West Virginia – 45% growth
  8. South Dakota – 45% growth
  9. Rhode Island – 40% growth
  10. Alaska – 38% growth

Small and medium-sized businesses selling in Amazon’s stores come from every state in the U.S., and more than 130 countries around the world. In 2019, more than 15,000 American SMBs exceeded $1 million in sales in Amazon’s stores worldwide, and nearly 25,000 surpassed $500,000 in sales. Products from small and medium-sized businesses make up more than half of all items sold in Amazon’s stores worldwide.

Amazon spent $15 billion last year on logistics, tools, services, programs, and people to help small and medium-sized businesses around the globe succeed in its online stores.

As part of this investment, the company launched Amazon Small Business Academy to help small businesses in the U.S. harness the power of the internet to reach more customers, build their brand, and grow sales.

Through a combination of free in-person seminar events, live webinars, and community college classes across the country, Amazon Small Business Academy will help thousands of American entrepreneurs gain digital strategy and brand building skills to make their ambitions reality.

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Wyoming Real Estate Becomes Hot Property During Pandemic

in Business/News/Wyoming
Real estate
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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s wide open spaces have become a draw for people who are seeking to get out of the crowded urban areas that have become hot spots for COVID-19, according to several realtors. 

Matt Hall, Cody’s mayor and a realtor for Western Real Estate, said the market has become much busier in the last few months.

“We’re having a hard place finding rentals, which we’ve always struggled with in Cody,” he explains. “But also, any houses that are in town, especially in the downtown corridor, they’re getting sucked up almost immediately.”

Mike Fraley is a realtor with Hall and Hall in Buffalo. His territory covers much of Wyoming and Southern Montana, with an emphasis on ranch properties. Fraley said high-end land sales have spiked since late March.

“The first part of April, not just in Wyoming, but in Montana and the Colorado brokers as well, we all started getting this inclination that we may have a different market emerge out of this,” he said. “You know, I picked up three different clients, three different private jets, and those were the kinds of buyers that were emerging.”

But Hall added that some of the interest in Cody in particular could also have been sparked by the move to the community by Kanye West.

“It’s certainly a correlation,” he said, “between the fact that we’ve had some new industry coming to town and that the market is actually doing quite well.”

And Fraley pointed out that while the market is hot right now, there’s no telling what could happen this fall.

“We are in a really good market today,” he said. “I don’t think any of us know what could happen this fall, with the election coming on and just so many things, the chaos going on across the country right now.  “I tell sellers, we know what the market’s doing today, and let’s try to capture some of that, because in six months it could be a completely different story.”

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Enzi, Barrasso Call For Reform In Meat Processing Industry

in Agriculture/Business/Food/News
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso, both R-Wyoming, called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Tuesday to look into reforming the meat processing industry.

The two joined a bipartisan group of legislators in sending a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue asking him to consider areas for regulatory and programmatic reform in the industry.

“When high-capacity processing facilities experienced (coronavirus) outbreaks amongst employees, operations were forced to shut-off or slow down production, leaving the rancher with livestock they could not move and the consumer with either empty grocery shelves or overpriced products,” the senators wrote. “These pitfalls can be avoided in the future if we take action today to promote a diversified food supply chain. Regulations must be streamlined to remove barriers impeding small and medium-sized meat processors.”

The legislators included Democratic Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama, Republican Sen. Steve Daines of Montana and Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon.

In April, Wyoming legislators Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, and Rep. Tyler Lindholm, R-Sundance, called for an investigation into meat processors, accusing them of taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to make record profits.

They both criticized the four major meat packing companies, Tyson, Smithfield, JBS and Cargill for creating a monopoly that hurts ranches and small cattle producers.

Driskill recommended the public call for an investigation into these companies and enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act, which regulates interstate and foreign commerce in livestock, dairy, poultry and related products.

Lindholm blamed the companies’ misuse of the Federal Meat Inspection Act as one of the problems behind rising beef prices for consumers, but not ranchers. 

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Wyoming Companies Receive More Than $2.8 Million In Relief (So Far)

in Business/Coronavirus/News
Wyoming Business Council
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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

More than $2.8 million in coronavirus relief funds was distributed to 180 Wyoming businesses in the first week of the state’s relief programs, according to Wyoming Business Council records.

The WBC’s records of companies that have received grants under the state’s Business Interruption Stipend program show that distributions of funds began June 10, just two days after the council began accepting applications for the program.

As of Monday, about $2,894,000 had been distributed to companies in amounts ranging from $1,000 to the full $50,000 allowed under the program.

The Business Interruption Program is one of three approved by the Legislature during its special session in May to help businesses that lost money because of the coronavirus. The Legislature set aside $50 million for the program to provide up to $50,000 for each business, depending on the level of the pandemic’s impact.

The program is open to Wyoming businesses that have 50 or fewer employees.

According to the WBC, almost 2,700 companies have applied for assistance and so far, almost $7.7 million in grants has been approved for distribution.

Many of the grants already distributed, according to WBC figures listed on the state’s transparency page (www.wyopen.gov/wbc), have gone to restaurants, child care centers, bars, breweries and other businesses closed by public health orders designed to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Among the 17 companies receiving the full $50,000 as of Monday was the Pumpkin Patch Preschool in Wilson, the Black Tooth Brewing Co. in Sheridan and the Tortilla Factory in Cheyenne.

Two other relief programs have yet to be launched. The Coronavirus Business Relief Stipend will provide grants of up to $300,000 for independent Wyoming businesses that employee fewer than 100 people and experienced difficulties because of public health orders issued to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The Coronavirus Mitigation Fund reimburses companies for what they spent to purchase cleaning supplies, sanitizers, personal protective equipment and other materials used to comply with safety standards.

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First Wyoming Coronavirus Small Business Relief Grants Approved

in Business/Coronavirus/Economic development/News
Man working at desk, going over analytics, ALT=Wyoming supplemental budget
4854

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The first grants to be provided under one of the state’s coronavirus relief programs have been approved for a total of $149,000.

The eight grants made under the Business Interruption Stipend program, ranging from $2,560 to $32,891, were approved Wednesday, according to a page on the state’s transparency platform website

The program is one of three approved by the Legislature during its special session in May.

The program set aside $50 million to provide grants of up to $50,000 for Wyoming businesses that employ 50 or fewer employees and suffered a loss due to closures required by federal, state or local health orders.

The grants approved Wednesday included money for Cheyenne and Gillette restaurants, including a grant of $18,732 for a Gillette company that makes mead.

Other grants included $32,570 for a cupcake company in Gillette, $17,126 for a catering company in Cheyenne, $25,000 for a restaurant in Cheyenne and $15,000 for a Cheyenne preschool.

The state’s transparency website did not have the most recent numbers, but according to the Wyoming Business Council’s website, by Thursday morning, 2,145 applications for assistance had been received and more than $2.1 million in grants had been approved.

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