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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
2565

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
2399

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
2366

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/military/News
Cheney
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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.

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