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Economic development

Car Manufacturer Announces Vehicle Final-Assembly Facility To Be Developed In Sheridan

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By Floyd Whiting, Sheridan Media

Falcon Car Corporation has announced it will develop a manufacturing plant to assemble Falcon 9X full size pickup trucks and Falcon 3B buses onsite at the future facility which will be located at the Sheridan County Airport Business Park.

The development of the primary site is scheduled to be completed by 2025 and will employ 260 workers. The primary sub-assembly buildings are designed to be connected by elevated skybridges and provide a safe work environment year-round. 

Falcon Car is a DynamiX Energy Corporation owned entity. Falcon Car Corp. focuses on producing vehicles that are in demand today rather than future concepts. 

According to Sheridan County Airport Manager John Stopka, DynamiX Energy and Falcon  are known for their electric car components. The company is now taking the steps to manufacture electric automobiles.

According to a release, the Sheridan County Airport provided Falcon Car Corp. with the ideal location for the manufacturing plant. Located minutes from I-90 with rail services and aviation access, the Sheridan Airport Business Park also provides Falcon with direct access to Denver International Airport, essential for business travel.

Stopka told Sheridan Media the airport was the deciding factor for DynamiX Energy Corp. Managing Director Stefan Amraly.

The Sheridan County Commission recently received the conceptual designs for the facility. County Commissioner Tom Ringley told Sheridan Media this has great potential for the local economy. 

According to Falcon, Wyoming is a great state for business as demonstrated by Sheridan’s recent industrial growth and its Made-in-the-USA initiative.

Once the company has finished with the development phase, construction will begin, Stopka said. 

Falcon has secured an initial capacity building and permits to produce electric vehicles in the state of Wyoming with additional production capacity increasing to 30,000 units by 2026.

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Neiman-Owned Sawmill To Shut Down Friday Due To Shortage of Timber

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

A company that operates sawmills in the Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming is finding itself unable to take advantage of the increased demand for its product because of shortages in available timber.

The shortage has become so acute that Neiman Enterprises has been forced to close its Hill City, South Dakota, sawmill effective Friday.

“We have enough material to run the (company’s other sawmills) for now,” said Mike Stevens, sales manager for Neiman Enterprises. “But the volume of material that the Forest Service wants to put up for sale is still well below what we normally purchase, and they have been ratcheting down the amount of material that we can buy for years. This by far is the worst year that we’ve ever seen.”

In addition to the lumber mill in Hill City that is closing after 50 years in operation, Neiman runs sawmills in Spearfish, South Dakota, and Hulett, Wyoming.

Stevens says each year the Black Hills operations for Neiman produce around 190 million board-feet of Ponderosa Pine and pressed board.

The lumber the company produces comes from timber put up for sale in national forests by the the U.S. Forest Service — but Stevens said that supply is dwindling.

“We’ve been battling with the Forest Service for years to keep enough supply to keep all of our facilities running,” he said. “They’re just not putting enough timber up for sale to run the facilities that we still have.”

According to a recent Forest Service report, the current amount of standing live timber in the Black Hills National Forest does not support a sustainable timber program for the forest. In addition, scientists are calling for a 50% to 60% reduction in the forest’s timber production.

The outlook for further reductions in available timber does not spell good news for companies like Neiman.

That shortage of raw material has come at a poor time, coinciding with an increase in demand for finished timber lumber created by the pandemic.

“When COVID hit, everybody thought that this was the end of our markets for the foreseeable future,” Stevens said. “Mills started looking at curtailment, production was scaled back, and then you started losing people. We were very fortunate that it didn’t affect us as bad in this area of the country, but because buying stopped for a three- or four-week period, there were huge concerns about what we were going to do.”

“And then, that rebound was so extreme that it went from, you know, having talks about how we were going to take care of employees, how we were going to alternate shifts or or curtail or whatever we were going to have to do to survive, to, holy cow, we can’t keep up,” he added.

The pandemic actually contributed to the demand for construction materials, Stevens said, because when people were forced to be at home, many decided to embark on long-postponed renovation projects, which helped keep the construction supply chain running.

“The country as a whole was locked down, everybody’s working from home or not working at all, but most people have a certain amount of disposable income,” Stevens said. “And all that was now not being spent, right? The restaurants were shut down, the movie theaters were shut down, nobody was allowed to travel. So there were people that had extra cash, and were spending all their time at home. 

“So they’re remodeling their house, doing the projects that they’ve thought about for years,” he continued. “They’re creating an office, they’re creating outdoor living spaces because they’re spending more time at home.”

But because of the dwindling supply, Neiman Enterprises is finding itself in the middle of the larger construction product shortage – without lumber, new construction, as well as the manufacture of components such as windows and doors, are impacted.

“We sell to retail markets, which would be your big box stores, your Menards or Home Depot or Lowe’s (and) your smaller retail chains,” Stevens said. “But our biggest customer base is probably distributors, who purchase material and distribute it locally to smaller users. And to the majority of the major window and door companies – Pella, Anderson, Marvin.”

And even though the mill in Hill City is shutting down, the mills in Spearfish and Hulett continue to churn out product, which is being snatched up by distributors from around the country, according to Stevens.

“It’s been an incredible market, something that I’ve never seen, and I’ve been in this chair for 20 years,” he said. “But just because the demand is high, it doesn’t change how much product their business can create.

“We don’t change our production,” Stevens continued. “You know, there’s slight changes that you can make, add a few hours here and there, but for the most part, we’re steady-Eddie in good markets or bad markets.”

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First Wyoming Coronavirus Small Business Relief Grants Approved

in Economic development/News/Coronavirus/Business
Man working at desk, going over analytics, ALT=Wyoming supplemental budget
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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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Wyoming’s Lead In Blockchain Tech Could Help Diversify Economy

in Economic development/News
Caitlin Long
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By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

Blockchain banking could open new avenues for employment in the Cowboy State, but people should start learning about it as soon as possible, according to self-taught blockchain guru Caitlin Long.

“Blockchain isn’t rocket science, though certain aspects of it are being worked on by rocket scientists,” said Long, who recently announced she was founding a blockchain bank in Cheyenne. “The vast majority of users can be self-taught. There’s so much on the Internet (about blockchain). If you take the time, you can learn it.” 

A Wyoming native, Wall Street veteran and Wyoming Blockchain Task Force gubernatorial appointee, Long said she taught herself the ins and outs of blockchain.

“It doesn’t require a degree to learn this technology,” she added. “Just get your feet wet and start learning.” 

Blockchain is a digital ledger system stored across a variety of online networks and the underlying technology enables the use of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. 

As the rest of the nation grapples with the rise of blockchain technologies in agriculture, banking and dozens of other industries, Wyoming was first to the front by passing legislation facilitating the creation of Special Purpose Depository Institutions (SPDI) (https://cowboystatedaily.com/2019/12/02/wyoming-opens-avenues-for-cryptobanking/), or “speedy banks” specializing in cryptocurrency transactions, in 2019. 

Taking advantage of the SPDI regulations, Long said her newest business venture, a digital asset financial institution dubbed Avanti, could open as soon as 2021.

“I will give (employment) preference to people in Wyoming,” she said. “The beauty of blockchain is we can hire people who live in Wyoming’s rural areas. As long as they have an internet connection, they can work as customer service representatives and compliance officers.”

Long said her company intends to file an SPDI application with the Wyoming Division of Banking soon.

Wyoming Banking Division General Counsel Chris Land confirmed the agency is currently reviewing two other SPDI applications.

In regards to digital asset education, the University of Wyoming is poised to take advantage of the state’s lead in the blockchain world, said Jim Caldwell, UW Computer Science Department head. 

“This is a huge opportunity for the state to diversify the economy,” Caldwell said. “Everyone knows about Wyoming and blockchain. There’s international attention on the state focusing on these efforts.” 

With the help of a state funding match, IOHK, a financial technology company, is in the process of backing a blockchain research and development lab at UW, Caldwell said.

“We’re going to be working on some cutting-edge blockchain research at UW,” he added.

While the Computer Sciences Department currently offers a class about the engineering side of building out blockchain, Caldwell said UW’s College of Business offers a class about blockchain in financial technology.

“The applications for blockchain are really broad and being used by nearly every discipline,” he said. “It has the potential to affect every discipline on campus in some way.” 

Avanti and other SPDI banks could help Wyoming jump into the global digital asset market, but Long said America has some catching up to do. 

“The U.S. is absolutely behind the curve on digital assets in general,” she explained. “In Switzerland, not only can banks offer custody services and trust services, but they can accept deposits in the form of digital assets. That goes quite a bit further than even the Wyoming SPDI bank charter does.” 

Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan are hubs for the digital asset industry, which is valued at about $300 billion annually, Long said.

“The U.S. is only about 20 percent of that value,” she added. “We have this logjam in our financial services regulations.”

By Wyoming statute, SPDI banks differ from traditional financial institutions. 

“SPDI banks cannot take risks with customers’ assets,” Long said. “The law requires the banks be 100 percent reserved, so the banks cannot lend or take interest rate risk. They are akin to the money warehouses of the 1800s.”

Because all the transactions are digital, Avanti will not have a typical brick-and-mortar branch with tellers and other amenities people might associate with traditional banking. As required by law, however, it will have a physical location in Cheyenne, Long explained.

“One of the services Avanti will provide is the ability to change digital currency into dollars,” she said. “Primarily, we will provide custody services for private keys that control digital assets.”  

How a 42-Foot, 2,000-Pound Submarine Periscope Ended Up at the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens

in Economic development/News/Recreation/Tourism
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By Seneca Flowers
Cowboy State Daily

On some busy summer days, more than 100 people may walk through the Grand Conservatory in the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens. They wait in line to peer through the 42-foot submarine periscope that stands in the building’s second floor classroom that gives them a view stretching many miles around the city.

Cheyenne Botanic Gardens volunteers boast theirs is the only botanic gardens in the nation to have a periscope. But the journey that ended with the periscope finding its new home in Cheyenne took a lot of planning, fast thinking and even more luck. 

Retired Navy Chief Jim Marshall said the idea to put a periscope in Cheyenne first surfaced during Cheyenne Frontier Days of 2005. 

Navy submariners who were part of the crew of the USS Cheyenne and the USS Wyoming visited Cheyenne during the rodeo to participate in community service. But the weather prevented them from working outdoors. 

“It rained and rained the whole week,” Marshall said. 

During the down time, one of the submariners suggested the group obtain a submarine periscope for Cheyenne residents and tourists to look through.

Later, Marshall said he attended Kiwanis meeting in 2007 where Cheyenne Botanic Gardens officials gave a presentation revealing the group had its sights on getting a periscope for the Paul Smith Children’s village.

However, Marshall spoke with those involved and soon realized they may have not considered the logistics of moving a 42-foot periscope weighing more than 2,000 pounds.

So Marshall decided to contact the group he was holed up with during that rainy Cheyenne Frontier Days week in 2005 and have them help get a periscope. However, he couldn’t find the original group members.

Marshall kept searching for anyone who could assist. He ended up contacting the past commanding officer of the USS Wyoming, who added his talents to the search for a periscope until one was found at a U.S. Navy facility in New England. 

The periscope was previously used in three submarines: the USS Corpus Christi SSN-705, the USS Alexandria SSN-757, USS Minnesota-St. Paul SSN-708. Marshall learned it could be moved to Cheyenne if officials at the New Hampshire facility could be persuaded to give it up.

Marshall eventually convinced them to hand over the periscope, but they had a condition — he had to arrange the transportation. This led him on a new quest to find an organization capable of carrying it across the country. The C-130s transport airplanes at the Wyoming Air National Guard in Cheyenne were too small. They were unable to carry the 50-foot long box. 

“A friend of mine in Virginia at the Fleet Reserve Association said, ‘Let me see what I can do to help,’” Marshall recalled. 

His friend contacted some higher-ups and reached the right people, finding a way to to transport the periscope via a larger C-130 housed at the Rhode Island Air National Guard’s headquarters in Cranston, Rhode Island.

The Rhode Island Air National Guard brought the periscope to Cheyenne on Father’s Day in 2007. 

Dorothy Owens, who volunteers in the classroom with the periscope, said she remembered the day the periscope arrived. 

“It was a nice summer day,” she recalled. 

The plane arrived and a handful of volunteers, including Marshall and Owens, greeted it. The pilot looked at Owens and asked her what the group planned to do with the periscope in Cheyenne. 

“We’re going to build a building around it,” she replied.

The construction took time. In fact, people weren’t exactly sure what the building surrounding the periscope would look like. The boxed periscope waited in a stockyard surrounded by overgrown grass and weeds until the former Botanic Gardens Director Shane Smith could settle on a location. 

Smith originally wanted to house the periscope in the Children’s Garden.

However, plans for the building that would house the periscope grew with every new idea for features and education. The price tag also grew. The estimated cost for the periscope’s housing unit soared to $40,000, and funding was nowhere to be found.  

When the conservatory construction became closer to reality, Smith decided to move the periscope to the second floor to expand the view available through it, according to Marshall. 

Things began to fall into place from there, literally. It took two attempts to install the periscope in its housing unit on a windy Flag Day in 2017.

The periscope was officially opened to the public August, 2017. Operated by a unique hydraulic lift system to accommodate both children and adults, Owens said those who take a look through the 7.5-inch diameter periscope are usually impressed with the view.

“‘Amazing’ is the word I get most,” Owens said. “People are just enchanted. They cannot believe what they can see, how far they can see or how clear it is. People really are enchanted with it, both tourists and locals.”

Owens said she encountered several children and adults who did not know what a submarine was, so, as a former librarian, she has taken on a mission to educate the visitors.

“I feel like it’s my duty to let people appreciate this (the periscope). Owens said. “I just do this because it’s fun.” 

She added she and the community wouldn’t have had the opportunity if it weren’t for Marshall’s creative solutions. 

Marshall wanted Cheyenne visitors to experience a unique opportunity than many across the country wouldn’t otherwise. Through the periscope’s journey to Cheyenne, it found its place as an attraction far beyond its original intended use. 

“It’s one of a kind,” Marshall said. 

West’s influence on Cody grows

in Economic development/News
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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.

Brookings Institution eyes Laramie’s downtown success

in Economic development/News
Laramie downtown
Photo by Matt Idler
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By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

Laramie is one of three cities across the nation selected by the Brookings Institution for a year-long study to catalog all the factors involved in creating a vital downtown shopping area.

“It feels like winning an Oscar,” said Trey Sherwood, the Laramie Main Street Alliance executive director. “It’s a huge honor for us to even be considered by somebody like Brookings to analyze the breadth of our work.”

Wheeling, West Virginia, and Emporia, Kansas, were also selected by the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings to participate in the study, which is being conducted by the Brookings Bass Center for Transformative Placemaking and the National Main Street Center.

While many small and rural communities have successfully created an environment that is both fertile for entrepreneurs and engaging for residents, little has been done to comprehensively catalog and share those communities’ strategies for others to replicate, according to a Brookings news release. 

“The Transformative Placemaking Case Studies will help fill this gap by evaluating the impact of place-based entrepreneurship strategies on key outcomes, highlighting several successful examples and presenting replicable practices and lessonslearned for the field,” the release states.

The study is slated to involve:

  • Interviews, focus groups, and surveys with stakeholders and residents; 
  • Observations of relevant programming and public spaces; 
  • Quantitative analysis of indicators related to economic, physical, social and civic outcomes, and 
  • The development and dissemination of a brief that will outline lessons learned and promising practices for the field.

Laramie City Manager Janine Jordan said the announcement came as a surprise, but confirms the city is on the right track with the development of its downtown.

“I think it’s really exciting to see Wyoming selected,” Jordan said. “And it’s affirming, not just for city government, but to see all our partners and our collaborative work recognized.”

In the past decade, she said the city and its economic development partners such as Laramie Main Street Alliance and Laramie Chamber Business Alliance have worked on a series of projects to encourage entrepreneurs to locate in Laramie. Those included work to secure funding for projects involving companies such as University of Wyoming startup Bright Agrotech LLC, munitions manufacturer Tungsten Parts Wyoming and engineering firm Trihydro Corporation.

“We have been successful in pulling down about $30 million in grants for about 10 economic development projects,” Jordan added.

In January, the city could adopt a new economic development plan, which would emphasize continued investments in place-making throughout the community, she said.

Sherwood’s team is slated to work with the Brookings researchers throughout the study, which could kick off with an on-site visit in March, Sherwood said.

“They were really hoping to come out in January,” she explained. “But getting to and around Laramie in January can be challenging to say the least.”

For the Laramie Main Street Alliance, Sherwood said the study presents an opportunity to review past strategies.

“It’s very rare that an organization like ours is asked to pause and reflect,” she explained. “In the last 10 years alone, we’ve documented 296 renovation projects downtown valued at about $11.6 million, five new construction projects valued at $3 million, 38 public improvements valued at $4.5 million, 104 net new businesses and 509 net new jobs.”

The successes only tell half the story, and Sherwood said she hopes the study will help her organization see the big picture.

“It’s great to see what’s working,” she explained. “But, I think understanding what hasn’t worked as well is key to working toward an even better future.”

Online retail’s impact could be opportunity for ‘mom-and-pop shops’

in Economic development/News
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By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

Online shopping is giving the Cowboy State’s brick-and-mortar retailers a run for their money, but it’s also creating new opportunities for local businesses, a Wyoming Business Council spokesperson said.  

“We’ve added 74 net new businesses and 168 net new jobs to the Wyoming economy in 2018,” said Tom Dixon, the Business Council’s content marketing manager. “When you’re looking at online shopping, an iPhone is an iPhone no matter where you buy it, but we’re seeing increased interest — especially in the younger generation — in unique and locally sourced products you can only find at a brick and mortar.”

Online retailers such as Amazon now offer one-day delivery options, providing a level of convenience close to that of a store with a physical location. But Trey Sherwood, executive director of the Laramie Main Street Alliance, said more and more Wyoming retailers are branching into new services to keep their customers coming back.

“We’re seeing businesses trying to close that leakage gap by offering services such as custom mail order purchases, where the business owner takes an order online or over the phone and puts the product in the mail that day,” Sherwood said. “There’s also a new trend called experience-based retail.”

Brick-and-mortar retailers are using face-to-face customer service, community building events and product workshops to create an experience beyond the simple exchange of money for goods, she explained.

Laramie’s historic downtown district experienced a serious slump during the 1970s, with businesses closing and storefronts sitting empty for years, but four decades later, Sherwood said the area is coming back strong — due in large part to reinvigoration efforts by the city and economic development organizations like Main Street.

“We don’t yet know to what extent our brick-and-mortar stores are being affected by online retail, but we know it is happening,” she said. “The pendulum will continue to swing, and we need to be prepared for what the next 50 years could bring.”

Creating a sense of place with art installments like the Laramie Mural Project is one way to keep consumers engaged with the local business community, but engagement can’t stop at the curb.

“There is an external conversation we need to have with our community — we simply can’t rely on buzz words like ‘shop small,’” Sherwood said. “We need to educate people in our communities about how spending money locally affects small economies.”

Large corporations aren’t immune to the pinch created by online shopping either, and several, including Shopko, Boot Barn and Kmart, recently pulled out of some Wyoming cities.

While the initial shock of losing a major retailer lingers for years, Dixon said the gaps left by big box stores can be beneficial.

“When something like that happens, the convenience is gone,” he said. “That provides a lot of opportunity for these mom-and-pop shops to expand their inventory and attract new customers.”

At the University of Wyoming College of Business, Elizabeth Minton, an associate professor of Marketing, has an eye on the future interactions of consumers and their retail preferences.

“I think in the coming years, we’re going to see a split,” Minton said. “People who are more money conscious are going to go online more, because it’s cheaper and likely will remain that way. People who are concerned about (economic) sustainability will likely shop more locally.”

Competitive pay, flexibility keys to hiring seasonal workers, say officials

in Economic development/News
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By Mary Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s unemployment rate is a good indicator of a healthy economy: people  are working and therefore able to buy homes, cars  — and Christmas and Hanukkah gifts. 

But according to state officials, the current unemployment rate of 3.8 percent means that employers looking to hire extra help during the holiday season may have a tough time of it. The low unemployment rate is a curse to employers, Denise Rodriguez, business representative in the Department of Workforce Services, told Cowboy State Daily.

“It’s a job-seeker’s market instead of an employer’s market right now,” she said,“(It) makes hiring overall very difficult for employers to find individuals seeking employment.”

According to Chris Brown, the executive director of the Wyoming Lodging and Restaurant Association and the Wyoming Retail Association, finding seasonal help is incredibly difficult for businesses. 

“If you were to go round on the horn and ask (members of the WLRA and WRA) what the biggest challenge is for them, nine out of ten — without a doubt — would say finding an adequate work force,” he said. 

And it’s not just a seasonal problem, he said. 

“The problem is that in Wyoming there are not enough employees available,” he said.  “It’s the least populated state in the country, so it has the least populated workforce in the country.”

Brown and DWS representatives have some advice for employers hoping to score some good workers to help with the holiday rush.

Offer competitive pay

“The more competitive pay the better,” suggested Jeff Schulz, a manager for the DWS Workforce Service Centers. “If a company is paying $12 an hour, for example, if you can pay $13 an hour, you can get them (to leave their current employer).”

According to Rodriguez, employers regularly resort to poaching staff from other employers.

“I had a 21-year-old tell me yesterday, ‘I’m thinking about looking for another job that pays more,’” Rodriguez said. “I said, ‘Don’t you think about burning bridges?’  He said, ‘I think I’ll look at getting more money.’

“(Job-seekers) can go back and forth,” she continued. “If they leave an employer and things don’t work out at the other job, they can go back and they’ll take them back.  Chances are the position still needs to be filled.”

Provide flexible hours

A lot of people looking for seasonal work already have full-time jobs, and they’re looking for a job where they can work evenings and weekends, said Ty Stockton, DWS communications manager.

Others are students who want to make some extra money over the holidays, Brown said. 

“In both the retail and hospitality industries, flexible schedules, being able to work with students and their school schedules, give them part-time hours — employers tout those things to supplement their work force,” he said.  “They need to offer (applicants) a great place to work, have fun and make money.”

Be innovative 

DWS Business Representative Terri Wells suggested that in addition to competitive salaries and flexible hours, employers be creative in their approach to attracting workers. 

“Think outside of the box,” she said. “What can you offer as an add-on?” 

“A lot of companies offer retention bonuses, so if you stay six months or so they give you a bonus,” Shulz said. “There are a variety of ways you can approach it, but the key is to make the employee as happy as they can be.”

Try a “surgical approach”

Shulz likened participating in a job fair to select the right candidate for the job to conducting precise surgery. 

“We do a mini-job fair every month,” he said.

The DWS job fairs are geared specifically for particular industries.  Employers who take part have an opportunity to grab the job-seekers most attracted and best suited for that industry. 

Check out the DWS website 

Workforce Services’ website, wyomingatwork.com, is designed to help not only job-seekers, but employers as well. They can search the system for resumes that match the kind of applicant they’re looking for and send a message to the job seeker. 

Consult a local Workforce Services Center

Employers who need more help finding seasonal workers can call or visit their local DWS center.  There are 22 centers throughout the state.

“If any employers are having difficulty filling or retaining positions and are looking for ideas, they can contact one of the local DWS centers,” Rodriguez said. 

Change in the air? Business Forum explores how to move Wyoming forward

in Economic development/News
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By Cowboy State Daily

An annual meeting of the state’s business leaders this week provided plenty of opportunities for discussions about the changes Wyoming is facing.

Attendees at the Governor’s Business Forum in Cheyenne shared thoughts and ideas on how the state should prepare to meet the challenges of the future.

Such changes do not have to occur at the expense of the state’s quality of life, said Cindy DeLancey, president of the Wyoming Business Alliance, the group that hosted the gathering.

“We’re cowboys and cowgirls,” she said. “We love so many things about Wyoming, but we also realize the world is changing around us. We can still be cowboys and be ready for 21st century  jobs and make sure our children have the skills and the foundation to be able to be good, productive citizens for the next generation.”

For such change to happen, gatherings such as the Business Forum are necessary, said Laurie Farkas, community affairs manager for Black Hills Energy.

“I think when we get together and start really thinking about the issues critically, that’s when change, especially good change, can happen,” she said.

Among those taking part in the conversation were students from the University Wyoming.

Rudy Nesvik, a UW freshman studying mechanical engineering, said the state should work to bring in businesses that would help lure new residents with advanced degrees.

“I think that Wyoming can look at attracting some of those manufacturing businesses to bring in more engineers,” he said. “We can have this focus on career and technical education, but I think we should also keep in mind other industries and other ways we can grow into the future.”

Kaci Schmick agreed the state needs to work harder to find businesses that would keep Wyoming youth in the state.

“We’re really just trying to get people to stay in Wyoming,” said the UW freshman. “A lot of jobs students want, they have to leave the state to find those jobs.”

Although far from the R-word, Wyoming’s economy is slowing

in Economic development/News
Wyoming Economy Chart
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By Laura Hancock, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s economy continues to grow, but it’s at a slower pace than in the past – raising the question of whether a recession is in the near future. 

Consider this: Wyoming’s number of single-family residential building permits increased by just six in the first eight months of the year over the same period last year. 

That’s according to the Wyoming MACRO Report, a quarterly publication looking at economic and revenue data.

Non-farm employment is up only 1.3 percent in August of this year, compared to August 2018, blunted by 1,400 jobs lost in mining – including coal — and virtually no growth in oil and gas jobs, the report states.

Natural gas production was down 11.2 percent in August compared to August 2018, and coal production was down 8.9 percent in the first eight months of the year. On the other hand, oil production was up 17.3 percent in an August year-over-year comparison, the report said. 

Generally, a recession is defined as a decrease in gross domestic product over two successive quarters. The data in the MACRO report does not show Wyoming in such a contraction.

However, the economy of the state – and the country – haven’t been in a recession for a decade. They may be overdue for one.

“The average economic expansion is much shorter than this,” said Anne Alexander, a University of Wyoming associate vice provost and economist. “It’s now the longest we’ve had. But it’s called a cycle for a reason. They do turn.”

The reasons Wyoming economic growth is decelerating have to do with the trade wars, the headwinds that coal has faced in recent years and the effects of a slower national economy, Alexander said. 

“It’s a combination of national, international and our own state’s circumstances,” she said. 

There is no formula for economists to predict a recession with certainty. But Alexander said it’s more likely than not that the economy headed toward a larger slowdown. 

“The indicators have been pointing to that way for a while,” she said. “The arrival time might already be here or might be early 2020.”

Across the country, manufacturing is downU.S. home sales are steady but prices are down and rail freight volumes are down, she said. 

Wyoming typically gets an advance warning – sometimes six months — before a recession, said Jim Robinson, principal economist for the Wyoming Department of Administration and Information’s Economic Analysis Division. 

That’s because the national economy often heads south before the state’s. For instance, when the demand for factory goods decreases, it takes some time for manufacturing energy demand to also decline, Robinson said, and Wyoming’s primary export is energy.

Robinson, who helps put together the MACRO and other economic reports, said he is keeping an eye on retail sales in a sector known as discount grocery stores and super centers. Think Walmart or Sam’s Club. 

“That subsector for Wyoming is down 4.5 percent this year,” he said. “That’s consumer spending. That’s important.”

The decrease may have to do with President Donald Trump’s tax cuts, which boosted consumer spending in 2018.

“That’s not happening to the same degree this year,” he said. “But also, consumers are starting to pull back this year.”

Cody restauranteurs struggle with labor shortages

in Economic development/Jobs/News
2243

A low unemployment rate is creating some difficult situations for Cody’s restaurants.

Park County’s August unemployment rate of 3.3 percent is lower than the statewide average of 3.5 percent and the national average of 3.8 percent.

However, the low unemployment rate means there are fewer workers available, leaving businesses like Bubba’s Barbecue, owned by Brian and Denise Wiegand, without enough staff to remain open seven days a week. The Wiegands said for the first time in eight years, they have had to close their restaurant one day a week.

“Every week it seems like there’s another business opening in Cody, diminishing the labor pool even more,” Brian Wiegand said. “This has been the first winter, however, where it has really hit us, this shortage of labor in Cody.”

The problem is similar at the Proud Cut Saloon, owned for more than 30 years by Becky and Del Nose. 

Becky Nose said because of unreliable workers, she often does not know if she can open for a day of business.

“They text you at 4 in the morning and say ‘I’m not coming in’ or they randomly text you through the night and tell you they don’t like this or that and so they just don’t show up,” she said. “Or they just don’t show up at all. So every day, you’re actually standing in the doorway in the mornings, hoping you have enough people to open your business for that day.”

Lacking sufficient staff, Cassie’s Supper Club was forced to eliminate its lunch service this year, said Melody Singer, who has owned and operated the business for 25 years with her husband Steve.

“It’s so hard to keep a full staff at lunchtime and keep a staff at dinner time,” she said. “Dinner for us is a better choice, we’re a steakhouse. So we did away with the lunch service.”

Donna Lester, manager of the Cody office of the state Department of Workforce Services, said she understands the frustrations of the restauranteurs.

“You have people coming in here every day saying they don’t have jobs, they don’t have enough money to pay the bills or to put food on the table,” she said. “And then we don’t see them at our job fairs. There’s a distinction between what people say they want to do and what they’re actually willing to do.”

The restaurant owners agreed they would take the necessary steps to stay in operation despite the labor shortage.

“We’re trying to get labor hired so that we can get back open seven days a week, but if we can’t, we’ll keep closed one day a week, maybe two days a week,” said Denise Wiegand of Bubba’s Barbecue. “Because we know we’ll get the labor come the summertime.”

Aerospace, defense companies meet Wyoming businesses in conference

in Economic development/News/military
Cheney
2186

By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming business leaders and U.S. aerospace and defense companies met in Casper this week to explore the chances of increasing Wyoming’s access to the aerospace and defense market. 

The Casper Area Economic Development Association, Forward Casper and its sister group Forward Sheridan organized the Wyoming Aerospace and Defense Industry Supply Chain Conference held Monday and Tuesday at the Casper Events Center.

The A&D supply chain consists of those companies that support and supply the aerospace industry and defense contractors. According to event organizers, the goal of the event was to raise the awareness of industry dynamics, opportunities and challenges. The conference introduced Wyoming and its businesses to A&D prime companies such as Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and Perspecta, among others from around the country.

“It’s a huge growing industry. It’s not in a retraction mode, it’s in a growth mode, and they need to know what resources and opportunities we have in Wyoming,” said Jay Stender, chief executive officer for Forward Sheridan. 

Another important mission of the organizers was to educate those in attendance on what the Cowboy State has to offer. 

“There’s no place better for people to be than here (Wyoming) and we just want to get our story out,” said U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, who opened the conference with a welcoming address.

During her speech, Cheney told those attending that the defense industry was more important than ever to the country’s safety and security. In an interview with the Cowboy State Daily, the congresswoman also said she is committed to helping to bring more aerospace and defense business to the state.

“One of the really important roles we have at the federal level is helping to make sure that in our local communities that organizations like CAEDA here, like Sheridan Forward, and Casper Forward, that everyone is aware of the federal programs that exist, and we can help bring people together…,” she said.

Hits to coal prompt leaders to look elsewhere for development

in Energy/Economic development/News
As revenue from coal continues to decline, many people around the state are looking at new ways to use the state’s rich resource and think outside of the coal box for future portfolio diversification.
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By Seneca Flowers, Cowboy State Daily

As revenue from coal continues to decline, many people around the state are looking at new ways to use the state’s rich resource and think outside of the coal box for future portfolio diversification.

Many people watching renewable energy expect it to eliminate the need for coal, but they are often not thinking out of the box, according one state representative.

State Rep. Mike Greear, R-Worland, said people are often neglecting coal’s future possibilities. Greear is co-chair of the Legislature’s Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee. He said the state has many developments it is exploring that still involve coal.

Greear said the University of Wyoming is continuing research on carbon capture sequestration and the utilization of the C02 for enhanced oil recovery. He visited the Petra Nova carbon capture and sequestration facility in Houston and believes Wyoming facilities would be great candidates for the same technology.

The Petra Nova facility is currently the only existing American coal-fired power plant using the carbon recapture technology, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The facility captures the C02 from the plant, liquifies it, and then injects it into oil fields. 

The process causes oil to swell, increasing the oil recovery volume. The process has reduced C02 total emissions at the Petra Nova facility by 33 percent.

Rob Godby, director for the UW’s Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy, said the state is actively helping develop new products for coal to maintain tax revenues. He said once promising technologies become developed, companies are more willing to adopt them. 

He pointed as an example to pipelines in Wyoming delivering C02 from natural sources to enhanced oil recovery operations. If C02 captured from coal-fired plants could be sold, the revenue could offset the overall cost of coal-generated electricity and make it more competitive with natural gas. 

Not a coal problem

However, if the state continues to focus only on coal as a large revenue source, leaders may be missing other great possibilities, according to one person working directly with growing businesses.

Fred Schmechel, assistant director of the Wyoming Technology Business Center, works at the UW in a program that helps businesses grow with a goal of bringing more revenue to the state and employing residents. So when state revenues decline, he sees the results directly in his workplace. Yet, he cautions everyone who considers this a “coal problem.”  

“Wyoming doesn’t have a coal problem,” Schmechel said. “Wyoming has a revenue problem. When we reframe it like that and figure out how we pay for our services, that opens up much broader funnel of possibilities.”

 Schmechel sees diversification of the economy and expansion of revenue streams as vital to the future growth of the state.

“If we keep trying to sell to the same 10 people, none of us are going to get rich, but if we broaden our scope and sell beyond our borders, bring that cash here, that’s where we increase our lot,” Schmechel said.

Schmechel said if wages increase, people can pay more for services and make the state less dependent on coal revenue. He also suggested that getting businesses to use services based in the Cowboy State can help expand revenue streams. 

“If we continue to focus on developing companies that solve problems outside of Wyoming and bring more revenue in, that ultimately brings more cash on hand to play with,” he said.

Greear also thinks the state needs to explore alternatives to coal, but bringing new business to Wyoming is easier said than done.

Severance taxes or bust

“We are going to still be mineral reliant in this state so long as we hold onto our current tax policy,” Greear said. 

He added he does not see the tax policy changing, but that he believes a policy change is needed. 

Change, however, would alter the dynamic and culture of the state. That places Greear at odds with some of his constituents who simply aren’t ready for change. As an elected official, Greear said he must listen to them.   

“Most people understand the changes with society,” Greear said. 

He added it is easier to push those concepts in towns like Laramie and Cheyenne because of their proximity to Fort Collins and Denver, but such changes might not fly in a town like Worland. 

Towns are also dependent on larger populations to attract and sustain more tech and business, leaving smaller towns out of the mix. It also makes it unrealistic to apply a one-size-fits-all approach to the issue, he said.

Holding out for the youth

Schmechel also said he wants to keep young people in the state and create jobs for them so they can to “plant their roots” for future generations.

Schmechel sees economic diversification and development as a way to expand a town’s culture, not diminish it.

“There are lots of people who look at anything that we are doing like this and assume we are losing our culture of Wyoming, and I think those people are mistaken,” Schmechel said.

“We don’t have to be Boulder or San Francisco. We are never going to be those communities. We have found in Laramie, Casper and Sheridan, where we have our three incubators for the WTBC, that each of those communities bring on their own feel.” 

As those communities grow and develop, their core values are moved forward, growing and strengthening their existing culture.

Godby also sees the need for diversification as necessity to independence.

“Do we need to diversify more, yeah,” Godby said. “The problem is when you rely on energy, you are going to be bound by energy cycles that are out of your control and typically driven by things outside of your state.”

The Blackjewel effect

Rick Mansheim, manager of state Workforce Centers in Gillette and Newcastle, has watched the Blackjewel layoffs from the front row. He has a lot of conversations with the workers and businesses around the state. He also believes Wyoming needs more jobs outside of energy.

“The key is diversification,” Mansheim said. “We need to broaden our scope.” 

He believes internships and early career path exposure is key to getting young workers involved in that effort.

Greear believes economic development around the state is productive, but often suffers from growing pains.

“There are some really good economic development organizations within communities,” Greear said. “But it’s kind of the hand your dealt. Cheyenne is going get a lot more looks at things you are not going to get in Worland.”

 He added that state leaders sort of had tunnel vision attracting specific types of businesses that were not fits for every community. 

“What is going to work in Cheyenne is not going to work in the Big Horn Basin,” Greear said. 

ENDOW’s impact across industries

But he believes creative ideas are still important. He cited the Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming — ENDOW — initiative as helping leaders think outside of the box. 

ENDOW was created in 2016 to diversify and expand the state economy.  Greear said ENDOW challenged people to think outside of the box and pursue opportunities such as value-added agriculture, which is changing a product to enhance its value through niche marketing, uniqueness or improving a supply chain.

Schmechel, whose organization assists many businesses with incubator programs and creative solutions, sees both existing and new economic sectors as exciting opportunities for business growth.

He added Wyoming’s vast spaces would be great for autonomous vehicles and drones. In addition, he suggested exploring UW’s cache of intellectual property for application in industries such as agriculture and making sure it is being used correctly.

He said the state’s agriculture community is doing great things and should be expanded upon.

Trade sector could use displaced coal miners, officials say

in Energy/Economic development/News
2129

By Seneca Flowers, Cowboy State Daily

Business and government leaders around the Wyoming are scrambling to make sure Wyoming workers remain Wyoming workers as the jobs in the coal industry subside.

In 2016, nearly 7 percent of the state workforce was employed in the extractive energy sector, which includes coal, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior. But with Blackjewel’s recent layoff of nearly 600 people, the state will feel the shockwaves on multiple fronts. The immediate issue is figuring out how to re-employ displaced workers. The good news is skilled trade workers are in more demand than many may think, according to some officials around the state.

Rick Mansheim, manager for state Workforce Centers in Gillette and Newcastle, has been in the front lines of trying to get the miners back to work. He said he has heard that more than 100 miners may have found new jobs, but his organization has no way to know the exact number.

“We have a whole gamut of training we can do,” Mansheim said. 

He said that some of the Blackjewel employees are taking commercial driver’s license and other college classes. He added that in the past, his offices have also been able to help people into the nursing and welding fields.

After Blackjewel’s two mines closed, the Gillette and Newcastle Workforce Centers held information sessions at the Gillette College Technical Education Center that attracted more than 300 people from the mines. The centers also held career fairs with employers from the region that attracted nearly 500 job seekers.

Help wanted in the trades

Mansheim said many companies heard of the layoffs and reached out to him directly looking to fill the void of trade workers.

State Rep. Mike Greear, R-Gillette, said the state needs more trade workers. Greear is the co-chair of the Legislature’s Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee and also the president and CEO of Wyoming Sugar.

As a CEO, Greear said he cannot recruit skilled workers. They just aren’t there. So he must develop and continuously look for them. He said he has heard similar stories from other businesses in the state.

“I think it is an unintended consequence of the Hathaway (scholarship) program, which is a wonderful program,” Greear said.

He said many young people have chosen to pursue a college education rather than enter the trade sector.

As a company president, he is soliciting high school students and offering them trade jobs with possible future opportunities that include welding or machinist certifications for those who would like to remain in their communities.

But he can only do so much as a business leader. As a state leader, he is also limited.

“The Legislature can do good things—it can set policy, it can help guide us over some bumpy roads, but in the end, it’s got to be up to the industry to be able to attract them,” Greear said. “The government can’t do everything for everyone.”

The disappearing coal job

For those workers who want to remain in their communities, finding coal jobs is going to be more difficult as the industry slows and transforms.

Economist Rob Godby, director for the University of Wyoming’s Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy, doesn’t see coal magically rebounding anytime soon because technology and the free market will naturally reduce coal’s demand.

“Coal is in real decline,” Godby said. “The (Blackjewel) bankruptcy this summer has demonstrated how disruptive that can be.”

Godby said he expects renewable energy sources such as wind and solar to become the dominant providers of energy in the future because of policy changes with climate change and technological advances that make renewable energy production more efficient.

Greear acknowledged renewables are part of an overall portfolio for energy, but they are often erroneously blamed for the decreasing coal demand.

“The real driver of coal moving out of being the more attractive option is low natural gas prices—plain and simple,” Greear said. 

He added that as coal’s share of energy production has declined, the share provided by renewable energy has increased. But renewables have revealed some reliability issues, according to Greear, so he sees natural gas as a more stable source of energy.

Godby said technology is to blame for cheaper natural gas, which he calls “the largest factor to coal’s decline.”

In addition, Godby said technological advances in natural gas production and renewable energy production have caused coal to lose its market share prominence. The impact will not likely reverse, he said.

“You can’t put those technologies back…you can’t put those genies in a bottle,” Godby said. “Once they are invented, they are really hard to forget. Technological progress happens all the time. It’s disruptive, and old technologies are replaced by new ones.

“Nobody’s building the coal-fired power plants,” Godby continued. “So eventually they are going to age out, be retired. And they are not being replaced with other coal-fired power plants.” 

Diminished local dollars from coal

Fewer coal-fired plants mean less revenue for the state and towns.

Coal production in Wyoming has declined 22.6 percent in last five years, 29.7 percent in last the 10 years, and 34.8 percent since its booming peak of 2008, according to the Wyoming Mining Association.

Coal is the second largest source of tax revenue to state and local governments, according to the WMA, with about $1 billion in tax revenue paid every year.

But the reality is that coal may not always be able to pay the bulk of the government’s bills—at least not in its current state.

Greear said state and local governments have some time to prepare for a downturn in revenues.

While coal-fired plants are shutting down, supply projections suggest production of 240 million to 260 million tons for the next 10 years.

Although Greear expects a slow, steady decline in production, he doesn’t count coal out of Wyoming’s revenue stream entirely.

Greear said there is demand for Powder River Basin coal among some Asian countries. However, efforts to build coal terminals in Washington that would allow shipments to Asian countries have failed.

Godby said even if the terminals were built, they wouldn’t likely be a long-term solution to the coal industry’s woes and may just prolong its demise.

He added even though a prolonged death may still be economically beneficial to the state in the short-term basis, the long-term outlook may not be positive.

“It’s far from guaranteed that the developing world is going to stick to coal for quite a while,” Godby said. “It is also the case that countries like China and others are turning to renewables and natural gas much more quickly than people expected.”

Wyoming enters into deal to boost meat exports to Taiwan

in Economic development/News/Agriculture
2109

An agreement between Wyoming and Taiwan signed earlier this week should increase the amount of Wyoming beef and lamb sold overseas, according to Gov. Mark Gordon.

Gordon, speaking after the signing of the agreement with Taiwanese meat packers Monday, said the deal should expand Wyoming’s export markets.

“It’s important that we have that export market,” he said. “And it’s particularly exciting to me that lamb will now be part of what we’re doing with beef and we can show the excellence of Wyoming products just generally speaking.”

The signing ceremony was attended by parties to the agreement including the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, Mountain States Lamb Cooperative and Mountain States Rosen Co., a company with offices in Douglas that produces lamb and veal, and the Taiwan Meat Packers Association.

Ming-Sui Kao, of the Taiwan Meat Packers Association, said the quality of Wyoming’s beef and lamb convinced his association to enter into negotiations for the agreement.

Much of the meat to be sold to Taiwan is expected to be served in that country’s five-star restaurants.

Jim Magagna of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association and Brad Boner of the Mountain States Lamb Cooperative both said Wyoming producers should have no problem meeting the demand of the Taiwan meat packers.

The agreement, reached after two years of negotiations, was part of some tough trade negotiations conducted by state officials in an effort to expand the market for Wyoming goods, said Doug Miyamoto, director of the state Department of Agriculture.

“That we can make and create these types of trade negotiations with foreign countries is good news for Wyoming’s producers,” he said.

‘Shootout’ challenge reflects Shoshoni’s can-do spirit

in Economic development/News/Recreation/Community
Now entering Shoshoni
2032

By Cody Beers, Cowboy State Daily

Like a challenge delivered out of the Old West, a shootout at high noon was held Saturday in Shoshoni.

Mayors of Fremont County’s towns, or their designees, met at the Shoshoni Rifle Range on the south edge of town to compete in three shooting categories – rifle, handgun and Annie Oakley shotgun-style shooting – as part of a fundraiser for the Fremont County Republican Women.

“When the Republican Women’s president, Ginger Bennett, called me, she wanted the shootout at high noon on Shoshoni’s Main Street,” said Shoshoni Mayor Joel Highsmith. “I said, ‘Anything is a possibility in Shoshoni, let’s talk about it.’”

Shoshoni Mayor Joel Highsmith exhibits a can-do attitude that characterizes his efforts to make things happen in Shoshoni.
Shoshoni Mayor Joel Highsmith exhibits a can-do attitude that characterizes his efforts to make things happen in Shoshoni. Highsmith — whose father also served as Shoshoni’s mayor — said residents care about the community and have good ideas for its future. (Photo by Cody Beers, Cowboy State Daily)

Highsmith was elected Shoshoni’s mayor in 2018. Like Saturday’s mayoral shootout, his can-do spirit is reflected throughout the 650-resident town.

It’s all about building and maintaining a community, its people and a great place to live, according to Highsmith.

“Shoshoni has always been my hometown, the place I consider my home, and the place where I always planned to retire,” Highsmith said.

Highsmith’s parents moved to Shoshoni in 1962. His wife Kathy’s parents moved to Shoshoni about 1950.

“I married my wife in 1972. That’s when we purchased our first real estate in Shoshoni. We have three beautiful daughters we raised in Shoshoni until 1989. We returned to Shoshoni in 2009,” he said. “We are Shoshoni people with Shoshoni roots.”

In fact, Highsmith’s father Joel Thomas Highsmith Sr. was mayor of Shoshoni in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Shoshoni in 2019 is a microcosm of life these days in central Wyoming. Local economies are struggling, even in Shoshoni where ConocoPhillips operates a gas plant in Lost Cabin, east of town.

Some people have left town. People make long commutes, usually through Shoshoni and the town’s famous intersection, to work in the oil and gas industry. Young people graduate out of the Shoshoni school system, and most leave. And few young people and their families live year-around in the community that boasts small-town amenities and is bordered by one of Wyoming’s best fishing reservoirs.

Boysen Reservoir, which borders Shoshoni, is a major focus for the community, with a committee considering ways to bring more people to the reservoir to take part in various activities and help revitalize the town. (Photo by Cody Beers, Cowboy State Daily)

“Besides our school system, I believe Shoshoni’s crown jewel is Boysen Reservoir,” Highsmith said.

Shoshoni also benefits from residents willing to look at ways to breathe new life into the community, the mayor said.

“People care about the future of this town and they have ideas,” he said.

The Shoshoni Town Council, or as Highsmith calls it, “the governing body,” has established a pair of committees focused on Boysen Reservoir and the rifle range.

“We are looking at different options to enhance our town. The Lake Committee has met with Boysen State Park officials and the new owners of the Boysen Marina, who are both doing a great job,” Highsmith said. “We are looking at developing more activities and fishing opportunities so that Boysen becomes more of a destination for people on their way to Jackson and other places.”

Highsmith said the goal is to bring more events to Boysen Reservoir, which in turn, will help the town. At one time, winter carnivals, high-altitude drag races, fishing derbies and other events flourished at Boysen throughout the year and brought visitors and their money to Shoshoni.

Highsmith said the same committee approach is being used to draw people to Shoshoni’s rifle range, arguably the best in the county and central Wyoming. Grants and donations have helped the local rifle club improve safety at the range through steps such as having local range enthusiasts act as monitors when the range is open.

Shoshoni continues to host a number of community events, including its Labor Day Ranch Rodeos and its annual Don Layton Memorial Antique Tractor and Engine Show.

The landscape of Shoshoni is changing for the better, too, Highsmith said.

He recalled the days when downtown Shoshoni boasted a Gambles store, grocery store and movie theater.

This photo shows some of the old buildings that line Shoshoni’s streets. The town recently demolished six old buildings on Main Street, along with a hotel and the community’s old school. Residents are now looking into ways to fill the empty space with businesses to help the town. (Photo by Cody Beers, Cowboy State Daily)

Today, some of the older, unusable buildings, including six separate buildings of the old Main Street, have been demolished, as has an old motel and the Shoshoni school in the center of town.

A new $39 million K-12 school has been built on the north end of town and is in its fourth year of operation.

The mayor said town officials are keeping an open mind to the opportunities for Shoshoni.

“We’ve been talking to the developer who bought our old school land,” Highsmith said. “We’ve been thinking and discussing, what can survive here.”

Town officials and many citizens agree Shoshoni needs an active motel/hotel and a local gathering spot, such as a café.

“That would be a big bonus for school activities and activities at the lake and rifle range,” Highsmith said. “Boysen State Park and the marina need more camper spots. Maybe we need a campground, because the lake is an important part of what we may do. Maybe our future is senior housing. We need more housing so our teachers can live here.”

The future for one of Wyoming’s busiest intersections – where U.S. Highways 20 and 26 meet – is involved, too, because it’s in the middle of town. Contrary to billboards on the edges of Shoshoni proclaiming the superiority of each highway, both provide convenient and scenic pathways to Yellowstone National Park.

The main intersection in Shoshoni takes travelers north on U.S. Highway 20 to Thermopolis or west on U.S. Highway 26 to Riverton. The intersection plays a role in attempts to revive the community, with residents looking at possible ways to build up businesses in the area. (Photo by Cody Beers, Cowboy State Daily)
The main intersection in Shoshoni takes travelers north on U.S. Highway 20 to Thermopolis or west on U.S. Highway 26 to Riverton. The intersection plays a role in attempts to revive the community, with residents looking at possible ways to build up businesses in the area. (Photo by Cody Beers, Cowboy State Daily)



“There will be changes in our intersection, even possible business expansion,” Highsmith said. “Our history involves a time when there were seven gas stations, and one on each corner of our intersection.”

Highsmith said Shoshoni people want businesses that benefit the community, including its school.

“We are open to ideas, and we are looking at things,” he said.

New Shoshoni school is a bright light in town

Bruce Thoren is in his sixth year as superintendent of Fremont County School District No. 24.

Shoshoni’s school district is very rural in nature, covering nearly 2,000 square miles.

“We’ve got kids attending from Natrona County, from Missouri Valley, Hidden Valley, Burma, Riverton, Shoshoni … the valley is where the vast majority of our students live,” said Thoren.

The school provides kindergarten through 12th grade education for more than 390 students and about 25 of those live with their families in Shoshoni. A school bus also makes daily stops at Riverton’s old Kmart to serve the more than 100 Shoshoni students who live in Riverton. Other students drive themselves to town, or ride school buses.

The school district is easily the largest employer in Shoshoni, with nearly 100 part- and full-time employees.

“These employees are a big deal for the Town of Shoshoni, and I believe the new building is definitely helping the viability of the town. Without the school, quite honestly, I’d hate to see what would happen to the town,” Thoren said.

There’s history attached to Shoshoni schools, too, as the first Shoshoni School opened in 1906 with 58 children and two teachers. After its first year of operation, a new school was built to educate 134 students at a cost of $7,000. The new building allowed the first- through fourth-graders to escape the old Shoshoni jailhouse, where they were attending school.

Thoren is proud of the school district’s ongoing partnership with the town.

“Things are headed in the right direction in Shoshoni, and the town council and mayor are looking to increase the viability of the town. Everyone wants to put the nicer things in place, including more paved streets,” Thoren said. “While most of the school employees and the Conoco gas plant employees commute from other places to work, a lot of those people would live in Shoshoni if we are able to get some of these community upgrades completed.”

Thoren points to future oil and gas development, including the Moneta Divide project, as possible boosts to the Shoshoni-area economy.

The Shoshoni Recreation District is part of the school district’s partnership with the town.

“This is a small Wyoming town, but it’s thriving with recreation,” said Recreation Director Michelle Rambo, who herself attended Shoshoni schools for 13 years.

The recreation district is currently preparing for its annual Halloween haunted house involving the efforts of more than 30 volunteers. It’s said to be one of the creepiest and best of its kind in Wyoming.

“People come to Shoshoni from all over the region to participate. It’s a huge event,” Rambo said.

Rambo, like the mayor and school superintendent, is positive about the future of Shoshoni, a community grounded in volunteerism “that works together to do what’s best for all of Wyoming.”

“My childhood friends live here, raising their families. We are all part of this community. We support our town,” Rambo said, adding a statement of her pride for Shoshoni schools and the mascot. “We ‘Ride for the Brand, be a Wrangler.’”

Sound off: Converse County leads state’s boom

in Economic development/Column/Business/Bill Sniffin
Sound off Wyoming's local economies
1816

Other counties report good news, too

By Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily

Of Wyoming’s 23 counties, why is Converse County leading the way economically?

The county boasts an unemployment rate of 3.2 percent, the fourth-lowest rate in the state behind Teton, Crook and Weston counties. It is in the midst of an energy boom bringing new workers to the area. Who better than the local newspaper publisher to explain what it happening in Douglas, Glenrock and Converse County?  

Douglas Budget Publisher Matt Adelman says:

“Converse County is at the apex of a massive oil and gas exploration boom that appears to be just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

“While we have huge amounts of exploration and development activity underway already, indications are the next few years will see an even bigger explosion of development as more wells are drilled – as many as 17,000 by some estimates based on those permitted. Those wells in the permit pipeline and the 5,000 wells being proposed are the subject of an environmental impact statement that is nearing its conclusion – and many more come into their own.”

Adelman says that all this oil and gas activity eclipses other energy-related activity.

“The Cedar Springs (phase 1) wind farm is beginning work this year, and phases II and III are already well into becoming realities concurrently and consecutively with phase I.

“Rocky Mountain Power’s multi-billion dollar Gateway West transmission line project is underway, with its starting point outside of Glenrock, and those and other wind farms will tie into that and other lines.”

Adelman notes that even though the coal industry has been hit with declines in demand and production, the industry — along with the railroads — is still responsible for most of the long-term energy employment in the area.

He sees development of other energy sources causing the Converse County economy to soar in a short time span.

“Of course, such a surge in growth – with employment spikes, drastically falling unemployment and the accompanying shortage of housing – is not without its struggles, but it is certainly a welcomed relief from the 2016-2018 crash in oil and gas prices and near-standstill in new exploration here,” Adelman concludes.

Converse County Bank President Tom Saunders echoes:

“Those of us that have lived through energy economic cycles remember how quickly the spigot can turn off when commodity prices fall out of bed and the workers spools their rags overnight and head back to Houston.

“When dealing with fossil fuel economies, 12-month budgets are considered long-range planning. Oil and gas economies are good until they’re not. The best cross on an Angus cow is a Lufkin pump.

“Our growth seems manageable at the present time, but the seams on our jeans are starting to get stretched tight. Any help in adding lanes to State Highway 59 would be welcomed. Those of us in energy counties understand the importance of mineral taxes paid in to the State’s coffers, as well as the strains our cities and towns undergo to meet the needs and costs of their development and production… we hope all our citizens of our wonderful State understand as well.”

The situation is different in Fremont County, where the unemployment rate in June was 4.7 percent, the highest in the state.

But in Fremont County’s seat of Lander, business owner Joe Quiroz said he sees opportunities ahead:

“I think we’re holding and have potential for growth. Last week in Jackson, three people asked me quietly and seriously about life in Lander. In fact, they’re all prosperous people who earn and spend, and are tired of the glitz and glam of a ski town.

“And the traffic. But they also need fast connectivity and transportation by a reliable air carrier. 

“I’m encouraged by the arrival in Lander of an interventional cardiologist and a vascular surgeon. These are people who will draw patients from around the state. Our future is not going to be based on employment of a large skilled workforce, but of small operators working in a knowledge based economy. 

“Lander has physical advantages that many places in Wyoming do not have. The sense of community is paramount. My wife Andrea runs a global enterprise from Lander, a place that will be our base camp as long as we are able to live here. We may have an apartment in London or Paris, but Lander is home.” 

Albany County is keeping steady with the University of Wyoming as a stabilizing anchor:

“The Laramie area economy is holding on, which is about all it ever does,” says John Waggener, an archivist for the American Heritage Center. “The tax base here is low due to the fact the largest employer, UW, is a public entity.”

UW historian Phil Roberts says:

“Hard to read the Laramie economy without reference to UW and, so far, I detect a ‘wait-and-see’ feeling about the interim and forthcoming new leadership. The mystery on departure of Laurie Nichols still spawns rumors. We’ll see in the next few weeks what the new semester holds.” 

Up on the eastern slope of the Big Horns, things are green and growing, according to retired community leader and former state Rep. Doug Osborn:

“I feel like the Sheridan-Buffalo area is doing well. The towns are clean and well kept, people seem generally happy and there seems to be building going on throughout.”

Retired Buffalo Bulletin Publisher Jim Hicks largely agrees, although he acknowledges the difficulty posed by the deterioration of coal-bed methane in the region:

“I believe Buffalo is holding its own economic issues.  The area has seen a sharp decline in Coalbed Methane activities and a lot of those jobs and supporting industries have gone away. Buffalo expects to see some negative spin-off from the decline of coal production, but that should be minor.  Tourism is up this year and cattle prices remain at a level to keep at least a small smile on the faces of ranchers.”

Pat Henderson, executive director for Whitney Benefits in Sheridan, describes his town:

“Our Sheridan area is doing very, very well.  Tax receipts are up.  Housing prices continue to increase. Lots of people moving here.  California, Texas and Colorado. We have diversified a lot with our economy. 

“One big dark cloud is Cloud Peak mine operating up north of here in Montana. Most of the employees live in Sheridan County. Very good wages but great uncertainty with them staying open. Going through bankruptcy currently and looking for a bidder.  If this mine closes, it will be a considerable loss.  Need to pray for them and their families.”

Gillette attorney Tom Lubnau II, a former Speaker of the Wyoming House, remarked on oil’s temporary ability to mask the struggles of the Powder River Basin’s coal economy:

“I live in Gillette.   The economy is average to below average.   Oil is covering for the slump in coal, for awhile.”

Up in Park County, things are plugging along:

Powell real estate agent Dave Reetz says, “Our area is holding its own in my opinion.”

Powell Tribune Publisher Toby Bonner added:

“I would say our economy here in Powell has been holding its own… but unfortunately we’re beginning to see a downturn due to closings of key retail stores like Shopko and others. Amazon and other e-commerce have really hit our Main Street hard. Closings of these retail stores locally have really put a damper on retail advertising in the Powell Tribune as well. We have more doctors, dentists, legal and insurance offices now than retail.”

Snuggled up against the Idaho border, Lincoln County’s Star Valley is benefitting from spill over of the robust tourism economy in Teton County plus agriculture and agribusiness operations.

“The Star Valley area is doing well economically, says Sarah Hale, editor of the Star Valley Independent in Afton.

Up in Newcastle, Newcastle News Letter Journal Editor Alexis Barker says:

“Economically I think we are holding fairly steady, we have had low unemployment rates, a recent increase in our valuation and increases in our taxable sales. I wouldn’t say that these increases necessarily make us above average but are definitely making Newcastle not have to struggle as much as we have in the past. We are also looking at an increase in new businesses in the area with a new grocery store being built, a new travel center (truck stop) and a new private practice (doctor’s office) opening locally.” 

John Davis, a retired Worland attorney and author, says:

“We are below average. Worland has not recovered from the oil slowdown of a few years back, when all activity in the oil field slowed.  Especially ruinous was the closing of the Worland Schlumberger office.”

Cheyenne attorney Jack Speight says:

“Economy is very good here in Cheyenne thanks the government, Walmart distribution plant, and the other warehouse giants on the east and west side of town. You can’t forget F.E. Warren Air Force Base, which is huge boost to the economy and to the volunteer base for Frontier Days.”

Tom Satterfield, a retired member of the Wyoming Board of Equalization in Cheyenne, says:

“Cheyenne is doing above average thanks to the college, the air force base, good medical hospital and being the center of Wyoming government all contribute. The new renovation of the Herschler/Capitol complex was a big factor for the last four of five years.  Good little theater and a great symphony orchestra as well as a very active arts group and a fine Civic Center add to the enjoyment of every one. Also a very active economic organization LEADS are all factors making Cheyenne an enjoyable place to live.

But the former director of one of the state’s most visible business advocates is glum:

“I think the state is in serious trouble given future spending obligations and current revenue streams. Tourism is fine; coal–a transitional mainstay– is getting hammered,” says Bill Schilling. 

Former Sweetwater County Commissioner Paula Wonnacott says:

“I think our economy is OK. But, there are uncertainties and I think everyone is worried. There are numerous homes for sale.”

Wyoming products make their way to Taiwan

in Economic development/News
1813

By Wendy Corr for Cowboy State Daily

Some Wyoming businesses are starting to introduce their products into the market of Taiwan, thanks in part to assistance from the Wyoming Business Council.

The Council is offering small businesses across the state a chance to make connections with Taiwan, where demand for American products is high.

Amy Quick, the northwest regional director for the WBC, said the council also tries to help businesses prepare for the challenges they might face when learning how to export products.

She added the focus on Taiwan is the direct result of a visit to the country by former Gov. Matt Mead, who saw Idaho beef listed on a restaurant menu.

“And he said ‘Why isn’t there Wyoming beef on the menu?’” Quick said. “So it was really a big effort of the governor’s office and the Wyoming Business Council to make that happen.”

One of the first companies to make the connection with consumers in Taiwan is Murraymere Farms, a Powell ranch that raises all of the beef it ships.

Val Murray of Murraymere said she is working to increase the exports of Wyoming beef so more Wyoming producers will have a chance to enter the market.

“We’re sending a very small portion over,” she said. “So we’re trying to find a margin there to help other producers in Wyoming so we can get a bigger market. We have all kinds of importers wanting Wyoming beef.”

Another Wyoming product making its way to Taiwan is coffee produced by Cody Coffee Roasters.

Jesse Renfors, the company’s owner and operator, said the process has been more involved than he expected.

“There’s a lot of schedules to try to mesh to figure this all out,” he said. “We’ve got to do some packaging changes, stuff like that, to appeal to that Asian market.”

Renfors praised the Wyoming Business Council for the help it has provided his company as it has grown.

“The support that we get from the Wyoming Business Council is epic,” he said. “It definitely helps us out a lot. We’re always looking for answers and I roast coffee, I don’t have those answers. And they’ve been a great resources to really lean on to help us grow so exponentially.”

Construction crews race the clock to fix canal

in Economic development/News/Community/Agriculture
1746

Farmers and ranchers in eastern Wyoming and western Nebraska are facing nature’s deadline as construction crews work to repair an irrigation breach that left 800 irrigators without water.

Construction crews are working full-time to repair the breach in the Fort Laramie-Gering irrigation canal that provides water for 100,000 acres of land on both sides of the Wyoming-Nebraska border.

Water to the canal has been turned off since the collapse occurred on July 17 and the late summer heat makes it crucial for water to be delivered to fields served the 130-mile canal as quickly as possible to avoid crop losses.

Rob Posten, district manager of the Goshen Irrigation District, said the district hopes to have the canal repaired by late August.

If the repairs take much longer, farmers and ranchers could be looking at significant crop losses, which Shawn Madden of Torrington Livestock said would affect the economy throughout the area.

“It’s not just if you’re farming south of Torrington or down by Gering, Nebraska,” he said. “Those people are all customers on Main Street in Scottsbluff (Nebraska), Torrington. I mean, these people are in financial peril.”

Cactus Covello of Points West Bank said most agricultural operations run on a slim profit margin to begin with.

“There’s not much profit in the corn, there’s not a lot of profit in cattle,” he said. “Most of that goes back to pay for their input costs, to make land payments, to put a little food on the table and hopefully have some to put in savings for a rainy day. The agricultural life is a lifestyle you’ve got to love, because it’s not ultra-profitable.”

Questions remain over whether the crop losses will be covered by insurance. If the tunnel failure was the result of natural causes such as rain, officials believe the losses will be covered. If the collapse was the result of structural failure, the coverage will not apply. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working to determine what caused the collapse of the 102-year-old tunnel.

Covello said he expects members of the community to work together to overcome the problems.

“These banks around here, we serve the agricultural community,” he said. “We will change and do things that we need to do so we can all survive together.”

We hope you find this story valuable. If so, please consider subscribing to our newsletter to receive Cowboy State Daily’s top stories of the day plus takeaways from the state’s top headlines in your inbox 5 days a week.

Daddy of ‘Em All is BIG for local business

in Economic development/News/Food and Beverage/arts and culture
1644

Tourism officials in Cheyenne are predicting that the city’s annual Frontier Days celebration will bring at least as many people to Cheyenne as showed up for the 2018 event.

Darren Rudloff, president and CEO of Visit Cheyenne, said he understands that ticket sales for the 10-day rodeo are at levels about where they were last year, when about 105,000 people visited the city and reports indicate most hotels rooms in the city are full for the event.

“So far, rodeo tickets are on par with where they were last year, concert tickets are up about 10 percent from what I hear and the weather is going to be great as well,” he said. “So it’s looking like it’s going to be a great Frontier Days.”

Jim Osterfoss, owner of the Warren Nagle Mansion Bed and Breakfast, said his facility is booked to near capacity for the rodeo.

The annual boost for business provided by the extra visitors is always welcomed by businessmen such as George Kallas, who owns the Albany Restaurant in downtown Cheyenne with is brother Gus.

“It’s our Christmas,” he said.

Kallas noted that anyone in Cheyenne during the celebration would be challenged to be bored.

“People come in (to the Albany), they buy package (liquor), they buy food, they buy drink, they go to the (Depot) Plaza, there’s some nice bands on Friday and Saturday night, they go shopping and then they go out to the rodeo,” he said. “And then they go to the night show. And they enjoy all of that. If you can’t find something to do (during) Frontier Days in Cheyenne, there’s something wrong with you.”

WBC switches gears to focus more on industries

in Economic development/News
Wyoming Business Council
1602

By James Chilton, Cowboy State Daily

CHEYENNE – As it enters its third decade of existence, the Wyoming Business Council finds itself at a crossroads. 

When it was founded in 1998, the state’s formal economic development agency saw physical infrastructure as the key to business development in the state – the “if you build it, he will come” approach, to borrow a line from the film “Field of Dreams.” 

Its response was the Business Ready Community grant and loan program, which launched in 2003 and has since provided nearly $389 million to cities, towns and their respective local economic development organizations. 

“Coming out of the ’90s there was really a lack of investing in infrastructure broadly in the state. I think that includes the hard infrastructure – roads, water, sewer – but also infrastructure in terms of workforce training, university training,” said Wyoming Business Council CEO Sean Reese. “That has really been the bulk of what the Business Council has done over the past many years.”

Now, however, WBC leadership is reevaluating its approach to business recruitment and retention, seeking to add diversity to its toolbox of grants, loan programs and technical assistance offerings with the aim of helping a broader spectrum of stakeholders and industry groups.

The Business Council estimates about $1.4 billion in private capital investment has come into Wyoming as a result of Business Ready Community-sponsored projects, or roughly $3.64 in private investment for every $1 WBC spends. It’s a figure Reese is proud of, but one he knows can’t last unless the Business Council stays responsive to the evolving needs of both established industries and potential newcomers.

“We need diversity of tools. The businesses and entrepreneurs we’ve talked to, they say ‘We don’t always need help building a building or a sewer.’ Some are entrepreneurs who need access to capital, or to help recruit companies that fit within an industry’s supply chain,” Reese said. 

Interconnected supply chains and access to high-speed broadband Internet have become just as important to burgeoning businesses as roads and water pipes, and it’s those needs Reese said the WBC wants input on as it uses the summer to revamp its portfolio of programs and services.

To kick-start the process, WBC this spring published a new strategic plan seeking to position Wyoming to “prosper no matter the economic climate or status of individual sectors.” To do this, WBC is renewing its focus on two areas: adding value to the state’s established industries and laying the foundation for new economic sectors to build upon.

“The big dogs in Wyoming’s economy are energy, tourism and ag,” Reese said. “But we also know when you compare Wyoming’s economy to the nation or the globe, there are certain sectors underrepresented in Wyoming we want to activate: health care, finance, professional services, the information sector, arts and culture.”

By leveraging its role as the state’s formal administrator of certain federal aid programs, Reese said the Business Council has the chance to prioritize innovation, technology and outreach to new markets using underutilized avenues.

“What gets lost a lot is the Business Council being the state economic development agency, meaning there are state and federal economic programs we can activate,” said Ron Gullberg, the WBC’s Business Development director. “For example, what agriculture needs is access to new markets; that’s not necessarily infrastructure, it’s help with logistics and connections.”

Gullberg said that WBC recently partnered with a Wyoming rancher to access funds through the Small Business Administration’s STEP program. Short for “State Trade and Export Promotion,” STEP is a three-year pilot initiative that provides matching-fund grants to help eligible small businesses access international markets.

“It covers up to $4,000 in travel costs to go over, do market research, have direct meetings with buyers,” Gullberg said. “We’ve got a Powell producer working with two restaurants over in Taiwan to supply Wyoming beef. So now without any marketing dollars spent over there, there’s word of mouth spreading about Wyoming beef at these two restaurants.”

That effort also underscores a greater push within the WBC to consult more closely with individual industry partners in the same way it has with municipalities. That’s something WBC Chief Strategy Officer Sarah Fitz-Gerald said will be especially important for understanding and attracting new or unorthodox industries.

“Our focus in the past was really driven more by communities and what they needed. Now we’re finding a sweet spot between what communities need and what industries need,” Fitz-Gerald said. “And our programs aren’t necessarily going to be off-the-shelf responses to what they need because those needs are going to change.”

Smaller towns in the state’s more rural areas should also expect to see more attention from the WBC going forward, Reese said, particularly as technology and connectivity innovations provide new ways of getting around some of the logistical challenges of such a wide-open state. 

“These new economic sectors, they’re different; people can work remotely, and we can increase the connectivity of those communities through things such as broadband, tele-health, regional air service,” Reese said. “Those are things where we’re working on initiatives, but we’re also working with communities to get them to work regionally. We have more financial tools, things such as opportunity zones, that require training communities to think about different ways to structure projects in ways they can do on their own.”

Cheyenne’s housing market is heating up

in Economic development/News/Community
1558
https://youtu.be/UIxHTWUQUl8

Affordable housing costs, a lack of inventory and Wyoming’s tax structure are contributing to create a seller’s market for Cheyenne homes, according to members of the city’s real estate and lending industries.

Figures show that single family homes with an acre or more of land priced between $450,000 and $500,000 are selling after just a little more than a month on the market and for an average of 99.3 percent of the asking price. A single family home in town with a price tag of $350,000 to $400,000 is selling for just a little more than the asking price after being on the market for less than two months.

Buck Wilson, president of the Cheyenne Board of Realtors, said the prices for homes in Cheyenne make them very attractive to out-of-state buyers.

“I believe there’s some opportunities for them to still find affordable housing compared to what they’re seeing in Fort Collins or anywhere south …” he said. “When you have a median house price of a home in town of $246,000, that’s affordable. Those people in Colorado go ‘I want to buy one all day long.’”

Wilson, of No. 1 Properties, and Larry Gardner of ReMax both pointed to the lack of inventory in Cheyenne as one reason for the market conditions. In 2009, there were 750 active listings in Cheyenne’s market, a number that has dropped to 250.

Wyoming’s lack of state income taxes and its conservative political climate also make Cheyenne attractive to buyers, Gardner said.

“They don’t want anybody telling them what to do with their guns, with their property,” he said. “A lot of people are looking for properties that don’t have (homeowners associations) or covenants, which is very hard any more.”

Mike Williams, manager of Jonah Bank’s Cheyenne branch, said the city is not facing a housing bubble, but some action might have to be taken to keep housing affordable.

“People are really, legitimately looking for places to live and affordably,” said Williams. “I wouldn’t say, in my opinion, that we have a bubble, but we really do need to watch this growth rate and we’ve got to do something to keep this cost affordable to the working guy in town.”

Gardner said he believes new home construction will eventually catch up to demand, ultimately leading to lower prices.

Wilson agreed, saying he also expects higher mortgage rates to contribute to a slowdown eventually.

Companies look for alternative uses for coal

in Energy/Economic development/News/Business
Companies look for alternative uses for coal
1492

By James Chilton, Cowboy State Daily

CHEYENNE — Once upon a time, coal helped to usher in a new technological age. So much concentrated energy in such a convenient package helped power the steam engines that drove the Industrial Revolution, transforming the way we live and work. Now, with coal’s future anything but certain, innovators are looking for new uses for the mineral that could fuel a new carbon-based high-tech manufacturing industry.

Coal’s fortunes have fallen in recent years – once the preferred fuel source for power plants, the mineral has been supplanted by cheaper, cleaner-burning natural gas in many places, while renewable energy sources like wind and solar have also been ramping up. And while coal is far from dead as a fuel source – China and India alone consumed about 4.56 billion tons of it in just 2017 – international pressure to ultimately phase out coal as an energy source remains strong, with at least 10 European Union nations now vowing to eliminate coal power by 2030 and similar draw downs and moratoria on new coal plants announced even in large coal-consuming nations including China and India.

Wyoming produces more coal than any other state in the U.S., and the mineral severance taxes paid to Wyoming for its coal comprise a large portion of the state’s annual revenues. But where once that amount rose steadily, from $85.3 million in Fiscal Year 1999 to $294.3 million in FY 2011, it has since been in decline, with the state’s Consensus Revenue Estimating Group (CREG) projecting coal severance taxes of $192.3 million for FY 2019, and continuing to drop through 2024. 

The shift in coal’s economics have led innovators to look for new uses for the mineral, and Randy Atkins, CEO of Ramaco Carbon in Sheridan, is among those leading the push locally. Atkins said that while coal is best known today as fuel for power plants and as a reducing agent in the steelmaking process, it was once believed to have potential far beyond just those uses.

“There used to be a thing called the ‘coal tree’ in the early part of the 20th century. In Germany and even the U.S. they had these tree drawings, it was all the various things you could make from coal,” Atkins said. “We were making all sorts of chemical products, drugs, cosmetics, you name it; all from coal.”

That changed following the invention of catalytic cracking, the process by which crude oil is broken up into smaller molecules that are then made into refined products like gasoline, plastics, and a myriad of other uses. From then on, Atkins said, exploration of coal’s alternative uses effectively evaporated.

“I wouldn’t even say it was left by the wayside, it’s just all the technology advanced through the use of petroleum,” he said. “If you go back to the ’80s there were a couple attempts to make coal to fuels, and that involved making what looked like a refinery for processing coal. … But it’s really been the last three years that some of this stuff has started to come together in ways that began to make the argument that coal needs to be given a second look for uses beyond combustion.”

Since coal is primarily composed of carbon, Atkins and like-minded researchers have been looking at coal’s potential as a source for carbon fiber, a high-strength, low-weight material used primarily in aircraft and the aerospace field, but with the potential for many other uses.

“What we’re trying to do with carbon fiber is to make it dramatically less expensive than today’s use of carbon fiber from petroleum,” Atkins said. “Right now prices are $25 to $45 a pound for (carbon fiber) precursor made from petroleum. We think we can get that down to five bucks.”

In fact, Atkins, along with other members of the National Coal Council, contributed to a report published earlier this spring at the behest of the Department of Energy, “Coal in a New Carbon Age: Powering a Wave of Innovation in Advanced Products and Manufacturing.”

The report lists carbon fiber as just one of many potential coal products likely to see increasing demand in the 21st century. Other uses include advanced prosthetics, biosensors, electrodes, fertilizers and as a medium for 3D printers. And at a cost of $12 to $50 a ton versus nearly $500 a ton for petroleum, Atkins believe coal could find mass appeal again as further uses and innovations are discovered.

“As this becomes more widely known, I think we’ll see some fascinating breakthroughs in materials science,” he said. “Twenty or 30 years from now we may look back and say ‘My gosh, the 2020s were when we switched from widespread use of steel and aluminum to widespread use of carbon fiber from coal,’ that’d be huge.”

If and when those breakthroughs occur, Atkins hopes they’ll be under the roof of iCAM, or the Carbon Advanced Materials research park currently under construction in Sheridan. There, Ramaco Carbon plans to host researchers “from national laboratories, universities, private research groups and manufacturing organizations” in a collaborative effort to unlock the potential of coal’s carbon content. 

Ultimately, Atkins’ plan is to develop an entire “Carbon Valley” akin to northern California’s Silicon Valley, with both research and manufacturing facilities fed by an adjacent coal mine.

That proposed coal mine, the Brook Mine, would be the first new coal mine in Wyoming in half a century, and one Atkins said would be relatively tiny compared to some of the extant mines in the state. But it has yet to materialize after Wyoming’s Environmental Quality Council rejected the mine’s permit application in September 2017 amid concerns over the potential environmental impacts. Ramaco’s appeal of that decision was heard in state district court in Cheyenne earlier this month, even as the company has submitted a revised permit application to the Department of Environmental Quality.

Even if the mine is ultimately approved, and in spite of his optimism about coal’s potential, Atkins says he doesn’t expect carbon fiber production will be what reverses the drop in severance taxes – at least not in the short-term. But in time, he believes coal’s high-tech uses could be what keeps mining a viable industry in the worst-hit parts of the state.

“As products develop over time … mines that can’t make it selling their coal at $12 to $15 a ton may be able to make it if they can sell at $25 to $40,” Atkins said. “I’m hopeful over a medium-term period this will provide an alternative demand for coal beyond its use as thermal coal.”

Travis Deti, executive director of the Wyoming Mining Association, believes Atkins’ proposals have promise, even if they don’t immediately offset the recent declines in production.

“What Ramaco’s doing with carbon fiber, graphene, graphite, 3D printing, that’s a great way to use our resource and make it viable in the future,” Deti said. “Is it going to replace the 300 million tons we’re mining right now? Probably not. But it’s an innovative use of the resource and it’s a great project.”

Deti said that while coal is still widely used internationally, especially in the Asia-Pacific region, it remains a hard sell domestically. While techniques for capturing and sequestering carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants are still developing, he said, it’s important for stakeholders in the coal economy to find alternative uses of the mineral.

“We want to continue to use our coal for electricity generation, but it’s really a remarkable resource,” Deti said. “And looking at the direction of where we’re going right now in terms of electricity generation … we need to start looking at other avenues and ways of using the resource.”

Wyoming residents look to themselves to boost business, populations

in Economic development/News/Business
Wyoming small business
1480

By Becky Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Residents in many Wyoming cities and towns are pitching in to invigorate their communities in the face of declining populations.

About three-fourths of the larger cities and towns in Wyoming saw people leave between July 1, 2017, and July 1, 2018, based on estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. A recent news release from Wenlin Liu, Wyoming Economic Administration’s senior economist, said Casper was the hardest hit community with a decline of 351 in population, followed by Rock Springs at a loss of 291. Cheyenne, meanwhile, gained 370 residents.

A random check with residents in towns and cities in the Cowboy State finds that many are trying to turn things around. Many get help from state and federal grants, non-money resources and education as well as private financial sources.

Lots of activity is going on now in Gillette, a city of about 31,903 people that depends heavily on the oil and gas revenues. Gillette lost 134 people between July 1, 2017 and July 1, 2018, according to Liu’s news release. The loss reflects an economic slide caused by plummeting oil and gas prices and diminished coal production.

Phil Christopherson, chief executive officer for Energy Capital Economic Development, the economic development arm for Campbell County, said city and county revenues dropped 30 to 40 percent because of the downturn a couple of years ago. But residents stayed strong. 

“Everybody came together and said ‘we’re going to make it through this.’ The community spirit really showed through” and is there today, he said.

The county’s economy is rebounding now, but the downturn meant “that the community became committed to diversify the economy,” Christopherson said. 

Energy Capital Economic Development proceeded with a business incubator program that was in the works when the crash occurred. The business incubator opened in September and has about nine business interests involved.

The agency also started plans for an advanced carbon research facility for exploring the many uses of coal. Its goal is to prove the technology exists to make the alternative uses of coal commercially viable.

The Wyoming Business Council will vote June 20 on a $1.4 million grant for the project, which also received money from an EDA federal grant and private investments.

In Rock Springs, officials are trying to determine how best to develop 15,000 acres of land near the Southwest Wyoming Regional Airport, said Kayla McDonald, business development director for the Sweetwater County Economic Development organization.

Money for the $66,000 study will come mostly from a Wyoming Business Council grant as well as the economic development organization, the county, Rock Springs and Green River. The study will provide ideas about what businesses and industries would be best to recruit for the site, she said.

Economic development supporters also want to recruit more retail businesses and restaurants to the area, she said.

Meanwhile, Powell, a farming town in northwest Wyoming that added only four people to its census during the year, is also looking at new development. Residents now are excited about the planned construction of a new hotel and convention center, said Christine Bekes, executive director of the Powell Economic Partnership.

The center, with an estimated cost of $10 million, is planned to open in 2020 and should create around 33 new jobs. It is the result of a partnership between the Powell Economic Partnership and the Wyoming Business Council. Additional hotel rooms are in demand, Bekes said. 

“We’re right near Yellowstone National Park and the lodging is inadequate,” she said.

The new hotel will increase available lodging by 50 percent.

Other projects in Powell’s near future will rely heavily on community volunteers. A community action group is building Powell’s first public dog park. A dog park is high on the list of what people who are relocating want to see. 

“Those who live in urban environments come to expect it,” Bekes said.

Effective economic development also demands creative thinking.

“I think the communities that are thinking outside the box are finding some success” in terms of positive community development efforts, said Justin Schilling, coordinator of member services for the Wyoming Association of Municipalities. 

Schilling points as an example to high-tech education, such as Cheyenne’s Array School of Technology and Design. The city has a diversified workforce, allowing it to offer career training for high-tech jobs, he added.

Another creative project Schilling cited is the $7 million Evergreen Plaza, a proposed 30-room assisted living facility in Torrington, where the population dropped by 14 during the year.

Money to build the project will come from sources like a $2.6 million grant from the Wyoming Business Council, a loan from local banks and a partnership with the private assisted living provider. The facility can be a solid economic development tool, according to Schilling.

Positive economic development doesn’t always mean building big warehouses. Tom Dixon, marketing management coordinator for the Wyoming Business Council, said that some projects – like the Civic Center Commons park in Cheyenne – “help develop the soul of a place and make people feel more connected.”

Projects don’t have to be expensive, either. Sprucing up a downtown with flower planters, bushes or a giant chess set can make a big difference, Dixon added. 

Even though Cheyenne is the fastest-growing city in the state — it gained 370 people in one year — efforts to boost the economy are ongoing.

Economic development in Cheyenne long has relied on Cheyenne LEADS, a private, non-profit organization with its own volunteer board of directors. Business and community leaders formed LEADS 32 years ago to attract good jobs and industries to Laramie County, Executive Director Randy Bruns said. 

LEADS receives $50,000 a year each from the City of Cheyenne and Laramie County and money from private donations. More than 80 industries and 6,000 jobs have been created in Laramie County because of the work of LEADS. 

“I am still doing this job because when LEADS succeeds, when we have a success, we know that the result of our work helps to do good things in the community,” Bruns said.

Controversial hiring freeze for Cheyenne scrapped

in Economic development/News/Criminal justice
Downtown Development Authority
1473

By James Chilton, Cowboy State Daily

CHEYENNE – A controversial proposal to enact a temporary hiring freeze in the city’s $56 million budget for Fiscal Year 2020 was eliminated upon third and final reading before the Cheyenne City Council’s Committee of the Whole on Wednesday evening.

The hiring freeze, which had been proposed by Councilman Dicky Shanor as part of a larger amendment that was approved unanimously the previous week, sparked criticism on social media from Cheyenne Police Chief Brian Kozak. Kozak contended that a hiring freeze would leave CPD understaffed by more than two dozen officers, which would in turn require CPD to suspend previously scheduled training and reassign the public information officer and half of the department’s school resources officers to the patrol division in order to maintain general public safety.

Shanor said in interviews he was concerned with “the politicization of law enforcement” he felt was evidenced by Kozak’s statement, which singled out Shanor by name. That prompted Mayor Marian Orr to defend the chief, characterizing his statements as advocacy for the public’s right to know how a hiring freeze could impact their safety.

Despite the rancor, however, Wednesday’s Committee of the Whole meeting – the nine councilmen minus the mayor – was relatively quick and quiet, as was the decision to scrap the hiring freeze altogether via an amendment. Even so, Council President Rocky Case noted early on that the large public turnout he and other council members expected as a result of the hiring freeze debate had not materialized. Only two members of the public chose to speak, including Stephanie Lowe, president of the Cheyenne Public Employees Association, who asked the committee to reconsider its recommendation to cap the total number of city employees for fiscal year 2020 at 578.1 positions, and instead give department directors the leeway to hire as needed, provided they have the budget and data to support each position.

“Staff have created a great plan for the city and I’m concerned about crippling departments that may prevent important work from getting done,” Lowe said. “Let’s not all forget the growing size of our community, which needs a growing workforce to keep up with maintenance at the least, but also to keep attracting new businesses and residents to work here.”

But with the hiring freeze lifted, committee members opted to leave the employee cap in place. Instead, a portion of the funds that would have been saved by the hiring freeze will instead be made up through $100,000 in reversions – budgeted funds that go unspent and return to city reserves – anticipated  at the end of FY 2019.

Committee members also heard from local physician Dr. Jasper “J.J.” Chen, who argued against cutting funds from the Cheyenne Downtown Development Authority, suggesting that the city instead define clear outcomes it wants to see from the DDA, then track its progress to determine future funding.

“We should do this instead of making the more dramatic and drastic decisions to take away a substantial portion of the DDA’s funding without empirical data justifying doing so,” Chen said. 

Mayor Orr’s initial budget proposal allocated just $100,000 for the DDA, down from $390,000 this year and $450,499 the previous fiscal year. But once amendment markups were concluded Wednesday, the DDA was ultimately budgeted for $290,000 for FY 2020, while the Cheyenne Animal Shelter will receive an additional $107,500, for a total budget of $612,500.

Committee members also rejected an amendment proposed by Ward III Councilman Ken Esquibel that would have cut Cheyenne’s $50,000 annual membership in the Wyoming Association of Municipalities. Esquibel argued that, with a citizen legislature only in session a maximum of 60 days in a year, WAM’s lobbying efforts were costing Cheyenne $1,666 per day, even as local legislators generally vote in the city’s interests. 

“We’re basically throwing $50,000 into the wind,” he said. 

Committee member Mark Rinne pointed out that Mayor Orr is going to be on the Resolutions Committee for WAM this year, and that the organization recently gained a new director in J. David Fraser.

He added that council members had previously discussed the need to participate in more WAM events, and Esquibel’s amendment ultimately failed, with Esquibel himself the only affirmative vote.

With Wednesday’s amendments thus dispensed with, the latest incarnation of the city’s FY 2020 budget will come before the full City Council for final approval at 6 p.m. Monday, June 10.

Missile systems upgrade could bring billions to SE Wyoming

in Economic development/News/military/Business
1467

If the missiles under control of F.E. Warren Air Force Base are made part of a massive upgrade program, Cheyenne could see challenges in managing the resulting growth, according to the former head of the Wyoming Business Council.

Bob Jensen, now part of Wyoming Entrepreneurs, said F.E. Warren’s involvement in the Ground Based Strategic Missile Upgrade program could generate growth among existing businesses and bring in new businesses as well.

“So this is going to be a big change and managing that change is as big a deal as having the opportunity in the first place,” he said.

Boeing and Northrop Grumman are in competition for a project to upgrade the nation’s Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles, about 400 of which are deployed in Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming, at an estimated cost of $90 billion.

Jensen said if the missiles in Wyoming are made part of the project, opportunities for growth would be seen throughout Cheyenne.

“People that are already here will have an opportunity to grow their businesses in relation to this if they want to,” he said. “But there will be new businesses that will come in and new workforce that comes in.”

To take full advantage of the program, Wyoming and Cheyenne will need to be able to look ahead and act on the opportunities it provides, said Eric Trowbridge, the founder of Cheyenne’s Array School of Technology and Design.

“We must have ‘leapfrog’ moments,” he said. “Wyoming does something that no one else has done before. We have to have that courage to be able to say we’re going to do it and leapfrog ahead of all the other states to do it.”

Boeing and Northrop Grumman have been awarded three-year contracts for the preliminary design phase of the upgrade.

An upgrade to Wyoming’s nuclear weapons system could be coming to Cheyenne’s FE Warren Air Force Base — but is Cheyenne ready?

Streamlining bureaucracy could improve opportunities for Native American startups

in Economic development/News
Streamlining bureaucracy could improve opportunities for Native American startups
1278

By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

LARAMIE — Complex bureaucracy could be one of the big hurdles facing Native American entrepreneurship in Wyoming, Gov. Mark Gordon said during a conference here.

Gordon opened the WY-Wind River: Economic Development & Entrepreneurship Symposium on Wednesday at the University of Wyoming with remarks about moving forward together with Wyoming’s Native American population, embracing the outdoors and supporting entrepreneurship. 

“If you want to start a business in this day and age, you have tools … you can tweet to the outside world, you can reach anybody in the world,” Gordon said. “But if your own government is standing in the way of getting things accomplished, it can be really frustrating.”

A streamlined process through the levels of government — tribal, state and federal — needs to be created to facilitate economic growth on the Wind River Reservation and throughout Wyoming, Gordon said.

“In this administration, we want to do everything we can to ensure entrepreneurs can thrive,” he said.

Speaker and moderator Gary Davis, the Native American Financial Services Association executive director and Native Business Magazine publisher, agreed with the governor’s statements and said unity was the key to economic development.

“If we can’t advance together, we can’t advance,” Davis said.

Progress could require difficult conversations, he added, but without them, the Native American community could forget its entrepreneurial roots.

“In the most layman’s terms, economy is to create business that generates revenue, (turning each dollar over) at least seven times … before it leaves the community,” Davis said. “I struggle to think of one community that can say they do that in Indian Country.”

To build a better environment for starting businesses, he said Native Americans need to invest in themselves and seek buy-in from their governments.

“The trick is how do we not foster dependency when advocating for economic development,” Davis added.

Following the presentations, the symposium opened a panel moderated by Davis and Sen. Affie Ellis, R-Cheyenne, which featured Native American influencers from around the state and ENDOW Executive Council Member Jerad Stack.

Panelist Cy Lee, an ENDOW executive council member and Wind River Development Fund executive director, discussed the potential for growing the tech industry on the Wind River Indian Reservation.

Lee explained a redundancy loop for internet service was under construction on the reservation, which could lead to tech-centric job opportunities for reservation residents.

“When this loop is completed … an industry opens for growth,” he said.

By establishing the redundancy, the area on and around the reservation could have the best internet service stability in the state, Lee said. Internet stability could attract tech companies, opening a currently limited job market for reservation residents.

Another panel member, Rep. Andi Clifford, D-Riverton, touted the success of the Wind River Casino as a tribal entrepreneurial endeavor.

“When I started work (at the casino) in 2005, there were 62 employees,” Clifford said. “Before the economy and state funding crashed, we had over 800 employees. Sixty percent of those were were female. A lot of those workers were single moms and single dads.”

The biggest challenge facing the casino employees was child care, she said. A daycare is currently being developed on the reservation with a programming emphasis on Northern Arapaho culture, Clifford added. When the casino was founded, she said a large portion of the profits were leaving the community. During its expansion, the owners focused on becoming self-reliant.

“We started doing things for ourselves,” Clifford explained.

By doing so, they were able to create more jobs on the reservation and utilize previously abandoned buildings for services such as laundry.

The symposium was hosted by the High Plains American Indian Research Institute (HPAIRI), and after the panel discussion, HPAIRI Director James Trosper announced a new partnership with the Wyoming Technology Business Center.

The partnership could provide Native American startups access to millions of dollars in micro-grants for market research. Additionally, the business center announced it was kicking off the Wind River Startup Challenge, an economic development initiative modeled after the Fisher Innovation Challenge and designed to financially reward entrepreneurship on the reservation.

The symposium closed with a performance by the Eagle Spirit Dancers and Singers.

LIFT Conference promotes leadership among high schoolers

in Economic development/News
1258

By Cowboy State Daily

This weekend in Casper, high school students came together to hear from a variety of speakers including Governor Mark Gordon, entrepreneur Jerad Stack, and Leadership Wyoming Executive Director Mandy Fabel, among others, at the second annual LIFT Wyoming Conference.

The conference, hosted at Natrona County High School, invited Wyoming’s future leaders to the table for panel discussions, seminars and networking as the state seeks ways to retain young talent and to encourage Wyoming’s young people to stay and brighten the future of local communities.

From the halls of Casper’s Natrona County High School, Frank Gambinosends us this report.

Public sector tries new approach to solutions for private industries

in Economic development/News/Education
Wyoming Next Gen partnership workforce
1073

By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

Few kids see the construction trades as a potential career choice these days, but a new partnership between Wyoming’s public and private sectors is working to change that.

“The Next Gen Sector Partnership is an opportunity to bring industries’ priorities to the center stage,” said Hayley McKee, a Wyoming Department of Workforce Services spokesperson.  “It’s an opportunity for these teams to work together in an aligned approach rather than a siloed approach.”

Initiated in spring 2018, the partnership was designed to position industry professionals as the leaders in economic growth, with the public sector following their lead. 

“In the end, it’s about creating good jobs,” McKee said. “And connecting people with good jobs.”

In Laramie County, Next Gen has already experienced a measure of success, she said.

Larry Fodor, a project manager for the Cheyenne-based Mechanical Systems Inc., said he is working with the partnership to highlight the benefits of in the trades.

“We hope to improve the image and perception of the construction industry,” Fodor said. “The construction industry, in general, is not the dirty, unsafe industry it used to be.” 

Fodor and Next Gen have worked with Laramie County School District No. 1 to coordinate a bus tour for school counselors and staff, visiting several construction businesses around Cheyenne, he said. The initiative can help school district staff and students learn about a variety of construction-based career opportunities, providing details on wages, benefits packages and training options.

“It’s allowed us to show a side-by-side comparison of what a graduate with a bachelor’s degree earns right out of college vs. a journeyman, who’s spent a similar amount of time learning his trade while getting paid,” Fodor explained. “We’ve seen a strong response to the Next Gen approach.”

After working construction in Laramie County for more than a decade, he said the partnership is a refreshing approach to recurring challenges.

“Next Gen as a whole is a new way of looking at solving old problems,” Fodor said. “These problems have been talked about for years without any meaningful way of getting together and moving toward a goal.”

McKee said Next Gen allows entities such as the Wyoming Workforce Development Council, Wyoming Business Council, Wyoming Department of Education and Workforce Services to use data to identify challenges in regions across Wyoming, then approach industry leaders in those regions with an invitation to help develop a solution.

“In Laramie county, they selected trades as their area to focus on,” she explained. “But in other regions, they have looked at finance, healthcare and hospitality to name just a few.”

Still in its infancy, Next Gen could help develop struggling economic sectors, stabilizing Wyoming’s boom-bust cycle while reducing the number of young professionals leaving the state in search of jobs, McKee said.

“It’s not necessarily just challenges, but often the partnership is working to build opportunities as well,” she said. “These initiatives are just starting, and they have selected focus areas, but later on down the line, there are other industries that are prime for partnership.”

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