Monday, November 30 2015
Wyoming is rich in natural resources and Western heritage. Its landscape is as varied as its energy assets. Windswept prairies and flat croplands yield to large expanses of sagebrush steppe and majestic mountains. Open spaces and world-class destinations like Yellowstone National Park are annually enjoyed by millions seeking authentic charm and adventure.
Industry leaders, though, are increasingly drawn to Wyoming’s burgeoning New West economy built on sound business principles.
Wyoming consistently receives high marks for state management and deep financial reserves, which, in turn, provides business owners a reliable, collaborative environment.
The Wyoming Legislature is statutorily required to maintain a balanced budget and the state has an approximately $16 billion in savings. Solidly in the black, Wyoming is able to invest in education, workforce and infrastructure critical to public and private business needs.
Wyoming government’s polished business practices spill over to its favorable business climate. The Pollina Corporate Top 10 Pro-Business States report ranks Wyoming No. 2 (2014). The state features no personal or corporate state income tax, a stable regulatory policy and a low cost of doing business.
Wyoming’s open-door access to legislators and the Governor are especially attractive to startup companies in highly regulated industries. This access, coupled with numerous grant, loan and incentive programs, provides business with key financial assistance.
Through partnerships typical for Wyoming, researchers, the governor, legislators and industries work together to advance new technologies.
For example, the Integrated Test Center at Basin Electric’s Dry Fork Station, a coal-fired power plant north of Gillette, will provide a lab for carbon-capture research. In October 2015, Mead announced the selection of the location and the $15 million in state seed money to get the public-private effort up and running. Research teams will study opportunities to turn carbon dioxide emissions into products like graphene, a recently discovered substance many times stronger than steel.
The University of Wyoming’s (UW) $115 million Tier 1 Engineering Initiative, launched in 2012, is designed to lead the state’s only four-year public institution to the national forefront in education and research. The Tier 1 reach includes the university’s Science and Education initiatives. It touches on fields like clean coal, gas to liquids and high-performance computational science and engineering.
The initiative encourages industry partnerships like the Hess Corporation, which has invested $25 million in the School of Energy Resources since 2013.
The Tier 1 Initiative encompasses the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s 1.5-petaflop Yellowstone Supercomputer, which went online in 2012 west of Cheyenne. It’s one of the world’s fastest big-data computers. About 75 million core-hours per year are reserved for UW-led projects.
Wyoming isn’t just investing in bricks, mortar and technology. In 2005, the Wyoming Legislature created the Hathaway Scholarship program for qualified Wyoming high school graduates. The initial $400 million endowment funds scholarships to attend the university and any of the state’s eight community colleges.
Technology Center of the High Plains
The state’s efforts to meet the tech industry’s needs are showing results and gaining attention. The Kauffman Index ranked Wyoming No. 2 for new business startup activity (2015).
The $15.8 million, 100-gigabit, statewide Wyoming Unified Network is a public-private effort to enhance educational opportunities, improve tele-health services, promote business growth and bring connections to rural communities that otherwise wouldn’t warrant investment.
Schools have experienced a 40-fold increase in broadband capacity.
Private broadband providers have the opportunity to connect Wyoming businesses with gigabyte service.
About the same time the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center went online in 2012, Microsoft began developing data centers west of Cheyenne. The corporation has now invested nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars in Wyoming.
International safety science company Underwriters Laboratories expanded to Laramie in 2014. The office houses UL’s technology development and support services for enterprise applications and global clients in the technology sector. UL currently is in the Wyoming Technology Business Center incubator on the UW campus until a new building partially funded by the Wyoming Business Council, the state’s economic development agency, is complete. The building will be in the new Cirrus Sky Technology Park, which also received Business Council funding.
Mead has also spearheaded efforts to boost Wyoming’s tech-ready image through the Global Technology Summit, which features some of the nation’s most cutting-edge executives and thinkers, and the Wyoming Governor’s Broadband Summit.
You Can Make it in Wyoming
Historically, the state’s manufacturing industry was minimal and heavily reliant on an energy economy. Recently, there have been signs of growth and diversification. Wyoming manufacturing employment increased 13.5 percent between December 2009 and March 2014. Some of that can be attributed to Wyoming exports nearly doubling from 2010-14 ($983 million to $1.8 billion).
Manufacturing’s momentum in Wyoming has caught the attention of companies locally, nationally and worldwide:
The Wasatch Railcar announcement parallels significant improvements to Wyoming’s rail transportation infrastructure which will allow for increased heavy manufacturing opportunities. Prior to 2004, Shoshoni and Evanston were home to the only two rail parks in Wyoming. Since then, Business Council grant money has helped build parks in Cheyenne, Casper and Upton. Several others have been approved and are in development.
Meanwhile, Wyoming’s energy industry continues to diversify its portfolio. Large energy projects on the horizon include:
Visit http://www.expansionsolutionsmagazine.com/wyoming_ed for local economic development office directory listings.