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Chris Brown: Wind Works for Wyoming

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By Chris Brown, guest columnist

In his recent column, Kip Crofts asserts that wind and solar energy in Wyoming need to pay more taxes.

Wyoming has always had a strong belief in promoting entrepreneurship, welcoming business investment and protecting the rights of our ranchers and farmers. Because of that, it’s hard to understand why Mr. Crofts would encourage a path of more taxes. In Wyoming, we should be encouraging new ways to bring in revenue, we should promote business growth, and we should respect our ranchers’ and farmers’ rights to utilize their land as they best see fit.

The fact is wind energy developments in Wyoming already pay significant taxes – contributing to our state and local economies. Wyoming is the only state in the country where wind pays a tax on the electricity generated, a property tax, and a sales tax.

Under these three taxes, wind development has brought in significant revenue to our communities. In 2020, statewide sales tax collections fell by $7.1 million, but wind investments generated a surplus of $3 million for Carbon County, $1.4 million for Laramie County, and $9.2 million for Converse County.

Wind projects currently being pursued in Wyoming will bring in an additional $10 billion in investments. If realized, that translates into $739 million in property taxes, $410 million in sales and use taxes, and $452 million in generation taxes – all of which support schools, first-responders, infrastructure, and other critical services that we all rely on.

Finally, the Consensus Estimate Revenue Group (CREG) July report projected a loss of 7.3% in statewide sales and use tax collection. Instead, thanks to wind contributions and increased consumer spending, Wyoming saw an unexpected increase of 7.7% — $34.5 million for our state.

Wind is already working for Wyoming and bringing in essential economic diversification at a critically important time. If we push wind even farther – taxing it more – projected investments will not be economically feasible and will simply be realized in our surrounding states. We already know it costs less to develop wind energy in New Mexico, Montana, and Colorado than in Wyoming, according to a study conducted by the University of Wyoming.

And while solar isn’t yet a booming industry here, let’s not give the industry any reason to think we aren’t just as excited about the opportunities it would provide.

More tax on wind in Wyoming will not equate to more revenue for our state.

We don’t control demand for electricity outside of our state border, but we do control whether we capitalize on investment and remain an energy leader.

The wind doesn’t discriminate where it blows… and we shouldn’t discriminate against this essential revenue coming our way.

Chris Brown is the Executive Director, Powering Up Wyoming chris@poweringupwyoming.org

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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. 

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