Today’s Wyoming is not your grandfather’s Wyoming. Or even your father’s Wyoming.
Our state’s economy has changed dramatically in the last 10 years.
During that amazing energy boom from 2002 to 2007 which I dubbed “Wyoming’s Golden Age,” the policies designed for long-term growth were created by governors and legislators and put into place. And they worked.
Wyoming’s economy heading into 2014 is a prosperous and optimistic job-creating colossus. It is changing the face of its economy and altering its future forever. The curse of the predictable boom-bust cycle which rears its ugly head every quarter century or so will not visit our state any time in the foreseeable future.
It could be said that the Wyoming in 2014 will not look much different from 2013, but we need to take note of how much our great state has changed in a positive way over the last ten years.
Wyoming’s number-one industry of energy production (coal, oil, natural gas, uranium) is maintaining its steady growth pace.
Our number-two industry, tourism, has exploded. Visitors from all over the world love to come here. Our hospitality industry has hired the workers and built the facilities to cater to these hordes of gawkers.
A third sector is the one that deserves the biggest hooray – the growth in non-energy jobs and non-tourism jobs all across Wyoming. Since 2004, the Wyoming Business Council’s Business Ready Community program has invested a quarter of a billion dollars in our cities and towns. The results are remarkable.
According to the WBC, more than 3,000 jobs have been created directly with another 1,000 jobs created to service them. Plus another 600 jobs were created by the challenge loan program.
Perhaps more importantly, these cities and towns now have the infrastructure in place to continue to be job incubators in their communities.
In 2013, I criss-crossed the state promoting my statewide book, traveling 24,000 miles. Although I was definitely not running for any office, this effort often felt like a political campaign. After visiting 30 cities and towns and speaking with a thousand people, it was easy to come to some conclusions. As a keen observer of all things Wyoming, I came up with these generalizations:
First, I cannot recall a town or city that did not “feel” prosperous. The few empty storefronts that we encountered were viewed as assets as local leaders saw them as opportunities for new businesses.
Second, nary was a discouraging word heard. People are optimistic. There were a few remarks about how some loans were more difficult to get than they used to be, but overall it was easy to see that people are investing in their communities and showing optimism.
Third, many folks are not statewide-oriented. They pretty much thought their community or their county or their region may have been unique in experiencing this economic upsurge. A lot of folks were oblivious this is happening all across the state.
With the help of my statewide network of friends, I put a list of just a few of the optimistic job-creating situations that we encountered around the state. For example:
Lander is booming thanks to Fremont Motors, Rocky Mountain Oncology and Wyoming Catholic College, while Riverton has Hi-Mountain Jerky, Cerento and Legacy Molding.
Cheyenne is literally going nuts. You start with the NCAR computer, Microsoft Data Systems, Green House Data, and keep on going. Puma Steel is a growing enterprise. There is no end to what is happening in the capital city.
Casper is still energy-oriented but the McMurrys are providing leadership, most recently with proposals to convert an old refinery site.
Laramie has Cirrus Skypark, Western Research Institute and UL/IDEs as just a few of their job creators. Trihydro has become a huge engineering force in the region.
Gillette’s L&H Industrial is doing work all over the world.
Rock Springs/Green River businesses are still focused on energy and trona mining but new enterprises are starting up almost daily.
Worland has Admiral Beverage as an anchor industry and continues to be the focal point for business centered in the Big Horn Basin.
Cody has Wyoming Authentic Products while Powell has Gluten Free Oats.
In Rawlins, the Kasper Oil Company has created a big service business through its convenience stores.
In Sheridan/Buffalo we have Wyoming Woolen Mills plus another L&H installation.
This is just a tiny murmur of what is going on across our vast 98,000 square-mile state. Looks like pretty much of a boom time in all business sectors in the land of High Altitudes, Low Multitudes.
Note: Bill Sniffin is a long-time Wyoming journalist from Lander. His books, High Altitudes, Low Multitudes and The Best Part of America, are on sale in fine Wyoming bookstores. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.