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SHERIDAN — For decades, Wyoming’s economy has stood on the three pillars of energy, tourism and agriculture. But as the state grows, Gov. Matt Mead and other state officials believe it needs to add a fourth pillar: technology.
Mead visited Sheridan Monday to see firsthand how the city has grown its technology and light manufacturing sectors and to better understand how Sheridan hopes to continue that growth into the future.
Mayor Dave Kinskey invited Mead on the tour, which included stops at EMIT Technologies, Sheridan Commercial Park and L&H Industrial, the High Tech Business Park, Ptolemy Data Systems and Vacutech.
“We have to keep thinking about those things that do so well for us: minerals, tourism, and of course I’m always very partial to ag coming from an ag background. But what I want is, don’t just mention those three. Also mention technology,” Mead said.
Mead said he felt it was important to visit Sheridan to support its efforts to diversify the area’s economy.
“Like every county and every town, I want them to do well because, for the same reason I care about getting local funding out, if every town and every county is doing well, the state of Wyoming is going to be in very good shape,” Mead said.
Mead also said he enjoys learning about unique opportunities in each Wyoming town so he can share good ideas around the state and foster collaboration.
For example, he highlighted how well Ptolemy Data Systems is promoting Wyoming as an ideal location for data centers.
“They recently received a national award that illustrates what they promote when it comes to data centers, which is location, location, location,” Mead said. “Wyoming is a great location. It has low-cost electricity, it’s safe in every way — environmentally safe, geographically safe — and we have a workforce that can do the job.”
Mead was also impressed with Vacutech’s experience in Sheridan, noting that the company researched dozens of places to locate, liked Sheridan but worried about finding an adequately skilled workforce. The CEO interviewed nine Sheridan College graduates, hired eight and seven are still with the company.
Vacutech CEO John Tucker said he was proud to show the governor how happy the company is with its decision to locate to Sheridan.
“I think that it’s really important for the governor to get out and see the businesses in the area and in his state, and I think that will help other companies, perhaps, to be able to find their way to Wyoming, and that’s what we’re hoping for,” Tucker said.
Kinskey was pleased with the tour, which lasted two and a half hours to the minute.
“I’m always going down to Cheyenne looking for money for infrastructure and funding, and Gov. Mead has always been very helpful to Sheridan. I thought this time it’d be nice to get him up here and just show him some of the good things that are happening without necessarily asking for anything, so that he can see that the groundwork is laid here for tremendous progress in our economic prosperity,” Kinskey said.
Kinskey noted that more than 10 years ago, Wyoming studied what industries would be good fits for the state, and data centers and light manufacturing were top of the list for Sheridan. To support that prediction, Wyoming was recently ranked second in the nation as an emerging data center hub, Mead said.
Kinskey said he also wants to see technology and light manufacturing grow in Sheridan to provide higher wage jobs in a town that has historically struggled with low wages.
“You look at our average income, and it’s second only to Jackson, but when you start looking at wages, it’s a different story. There are a lot of people who really struggle in Sheridan to make a living and keep food on the table and housing over their heads,” Kinskey said. “If you have a more diverse job base, you have a more stable job base, and manufacturing and data centers will do that for us.”
Looking toward the future, Kinskey said Sheridan is looking at forming a coalition of northeast Wyoming counties and coordinating with some other parts of the state to work together to significantly boost the state’s fiber optic capacity.
“If we can provide the infrastructure, the free market will respond to what we’ve got right here in Sheridan,” Kinskey said. “Opportunity knocks for Sheridan; we just have to get up and open the door.”