SHERIDAN — A common rhetoric among Sheridanites pegs the county as a community fostering opportunities for entrepreneurs to start and succeed with new business ventures, but do the numbers back up that image?
Sheridan County ranked fourth in Wyoming and 461st in the nation for positive economic growth, including 3 percent business growth, according to Smart Asset investment calculator.
Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce executive director Dixie Johnson said it’s hard to put an exact number on how many entrepreneurs are successfully running businesses in Sheridan County, but two-thirds of Chamber members are small businesses.
“And many of those small businesses are represented by entrepreneurs,” Johnson said.
Johnson said when an individual approaches the Chamber with an idea or comes asking for direction, employees help equip him or her with resources to reach business goals.
“We do everything we can to connect those individuals with the resources to help them do it the right way,” Johnson said.
One of the resources the Chamber uses regularly is Susan Jerke with the Small Business Development Center. Jerke visits Sheridan one day per week, if not more, helps potential entrepreneurs develop business and marketing plans and walks through requirements in setting up a new business.
Sheridan’s other primary resource for entrepreneurial expertise arrived three years ago and recently introduced a new director to the program.
Scot Rendall, the new director of the Wyoming Technology Business Center Sheridan branch, replaced John Dick, who now works for First Federal Bank in Sheridan. Rendall believes Sheridan is positioned well for additional businesses to come in and start from the ground up and the fact Sheridan even has an incubator puts the county ahead of most in the state.
Sheridan hosted a Start-Up Challenge for aspiring entrepreneurs last spring. Rendall applauded Sheridan’s large turnout of around 70 entrepreneurs, surpassing the other challenges in Laramie and Casper.
“That’s a testament to the entrepreneurial spirit of Sheridan,” Rendall said.
Rendall believes there are three elements of effective economic development, which in turn fosters a positive atmosphere for new businesses: bringing in established outside businesses (like Weatherby, Inc.), growing existing businesses (like the Chamber’s efforts with entrepreneurs) and organic growth from the ground up (like the new restaurant, Birch).
One area of improvement in fostering a positive atmosphere for potential new businesses in Sheridan is venture capital. Rendall would love to see a similar setup to Casper, which has a venture capital fund for aspiring businesses.
“I would believe there would be some receptivity in the community for that,” Rendall said. “There’s actually a fair number of higher-network worth individuals…some pretty well-to-do people.”
Individuals with deeper bank accounts and well-curated business minds in the community are more likely to make a risky investment for an above-average rate of return.
Rendall anticipates something similar in Sheridan in the near future.
Even without set funding sources pumping into the business-savvy ideas of entrepreneurs in Sheridan County, the entrepreneurial atmosphere in Sheridan rivals those of larger populations like Casper and Laramie.