SHERIDAN — This week, Sheridan hosted a Wyoming board committed to exploring the leading economic drivers for local communities as well as the state.
The executive council of ENDOW, or Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming, toured local businesses including Flood Marketing, Vacutech and businesses in Buffalo to help grasp a larger picture of what drives the economy in Sheridan and Johnson counties.
The group met Thursday and Friday at the Mars Agriculture Center at Sheridan College to discuss the business tours and to hear from local leaders.
On Thursday, Sheridan County Commission Chairman Steve Maier highlighted the county’s recently developed land use plan as one of its efforts to track and plan for the health of the community in the future. Maier said the most difficult challenge facing Wyoming is diversity.
“Wyoming has to come back to not only a diverse economy, but a diverse tax plan, tax base,” Maier said. “Relying on minerals the way we do now and the ups and downs, I’ve been here long enough to go through a couple of those. It causes uncertainty, it causes problems, it causes stress and having some regularity and consistency on taxing is something I think the legislature has to deal with at some point.”
Sheridan Travel and Tourism executive director Shawn Parker said Sheridan places a great deal of focus and emphasis on outdoor recreation as a way to expand resources and economic development in the area.
“I think there’s a real opportunity to focus in on tourism the next few years as a leader,” Parker told the ENDOW group Thursday. “We know already that it’s the state’s second largest economic driver.”
Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce CEO Dixie Johnson noted the need to supply jobs for entire families, not just one person.
“What we’re hearing from business around the community is that while recruiting talent into our community is not a difficult task necessarily, oftentimes it’s connecting the trailing spouses with those jobs that they might need and then retaining them in the community because we do have some additional challenges,” Johnson said, mentioning affordable housing as one of those additional challenges.
Council member Wally Wolski highlighted a similar idea to Johnson’s through a comment he picked up from Vacutech’s CEO, John Tucker. Wolski said the CEO advised ENDOW to not focus on recruiting companies, but instead to focus on recruiting people.
“And that’s what it’s all about in Wyoming,” Wolski said. “This is about the people. If we’ve got the people that will stay here, then the jobs are going to come.”
Part of catering to the people include small communities, Ranchester’s Mayor Peter Clark reminded the ENDOW council on Thursday. Clark noted that the bedroom community has the potential to add 100 more houses to its area.
After a summer filled with tours of communities and businesses in Wyoming, Gov. Matt Mead and Greg Hill, the COO of Hess Corporation and ENDOW co-chair, will conduct a telephone press conference Aug. 15.