I have seen the future.
It is just like today. Only different.
Oops, it changed again.
Based on the past 10 years, folks in Wyoming should be feeling pretty perky about the future.
Our two biggest industries, energy development and tourism, both boomed to all-time record levels in the last decade. Gains in these sectors should continue to be the economic generators of our state.
It is easy to predict that these sectors will continue to be the leading job creators in Wyoming, although there are always danger areas ahead.
A third area that is really the biggest bright spot of the past 10 years is Wyoming’s emergence as a national leader in some unusual and unexpected industrial and technological areas. This includes data storage, becoming a transportation hub for huge retail companies and as a scientific leader with the installation of the NCAR super computer in Cheyenne.
For decades, Wyoming people have wanted to see some kind of manufacturing job base being developed in our state but success stories have been few.
But these newest of all technologies, that did not even exist a few years ago, are finding a home in Wyoming.
The new computer storage sites such as by Microsoft is a real bright spot in Wyoming’s economic growth.
The location in Cheyenne at the crossroads of two interstate highways and a railroad has resulted in major distribution centers like Lowe’s and Wal Mart.
And NCAR, the national weather super computer, bodes well in making Wyoming and UW a national leader in computer projecting.
These areas have been true bright spots that occurred outside of the more predictable energy and tourism sectors.
As we sit here and try to predict our state’s future, perhaps it might be worth taking a look back?
Back in 1987, a large group of concerned and committed citizens convened at Casper and Cheyenne meetings to talk about the economic future of Wyoming.
Appropriately called “The Futures Project,” it consisted of attempts to both guess what the future of our great state would be and also to write a roadmap that could help us go to where we decided we wanted to go.
I was cleaning out an old warehouse recently and came across that report.
Although the report brought back some fond memories of a simpler time, most of all, I was impressed to see, once again, this ambitious attempt to look into a crystal ball.
Now, here as I write this in December 2012, a quarter century later, I am standing here in that very future that we all were talking about way back then.
If I were to look ahead 25 years to 2037, what kind of world could Wyoming citizens be participating in? Here are three wild and crazy possible predictions:
• Unless there is a solution in burning coal in a clean manner, I worry that Wyoming will see its now 250-year supply of coal stuck in the ground.
• I am a carnivore and nothing tastes better than a good steak, especially on Wyoming-grazed beef. But it takes 30 pounds of grain to create one pound of steak. It is a safe bet to assume our world population will be eating a lot more beans and a lot less meat a quarter century in the future.
• Wyoming, today, is truly the hunting paradise for the lower 48 states. Hopefully we can maintain our state’s rights and keep hunting as a major activity here in the Cowboy State. But hunting, as a sport, is in national decline. Numbers of hunters are dropping everywhere. Maybe Wyoming can remain a holdout as the country’s hunting Mecca in 2037.
It could be assumed that both Colorado and Montana might be non-hunting states a quarter century into the future, based on the make-up of their local populations.
Trying to predict 25 years in the future is difficult.
Back in 1987, the biggest concerns were commercial airline development, an improved telecommunication network across the state (no mention of internet), a “cohesive” state minerals policy, economic incentives to promote tourism, and cooperation between the community colleges and UW.
That Futures Report ended up being pretty vague. It really did not foresee the enormous development of coal and natural gas. Just about everything else that caused worries back then has seemingly been solved by now.
So looking forward two and a half decades can be perilous for a prognosticator, but here it is, for what it is worth.
Happy New Year.
Check out Bill Sniffin’s columns and blogs at www.billsniffin.com. He is a longtime Wyoming journalist from Lander who has written four books. His most recent book is “Wyoming’s 7 Greatest Natural Wonders” which is available at www.wyomingwonders.com.