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Want growth, get out of the way

Re: Aug. 14 Press article

Those of us experienced Sheridan citizens know that historical opportunities for growth have been greeted with reluctance and tepid enthusiasm.  The resistance generally prevailed, producing a lengthy trail of rejected prospects. That’s why I was very intrigued and yet perplexed with the front page article in last Thursday’s Sheridan Press (Aug. 14) discussing the planning for growth.

In fact, it brought a bit of a chuckle — growth in Sheridan? Shouts of, “Not in my backyard!” can be heard echoing through the streets.

The article begins with a forecast of 20,000 residents by the year 2030. Placed in simple terms, roughly 15 years from now our local populace is expected to grow by an estimated 2,500 new citizens (using the 2010 census figure of 17,444). That equates to a paltry 1 percent growth rate in the early years and even less as 2030 approaches — perhaps manageable, but certainly not representative of an ambitious strategy to plant economic seeds. According to census data compiled by the Wyoming Economic Analysis Division, Sheridan’s population in 1950 was 11,500. It’s taken 65 years to grow by roughly 6,000 residents (less than 100 per year).

Feedback offered by some of the locals (as mentioned in the article) ranged from encouraging more business and stimulating the economy, to exercising caution about “unbridled growth” and blind development, to wishing for a Target store. I’m not sure you can even put Sheridan and unbridled growth in the same sentence. Nonetheless, the expanse of community member input on the future direction of our city is valuable and demonstrates interest and involvement.

So let’s play the devil’s advocate and assume this mediocre growth model is realized. Who will be these new citizens which inhabit Sheridan? Will it be a litany of young families seeking the generous job opportunities — those offering a living wage? Or will it follow the same pattern with our youth exiting Sheridan for lack of sufficient employment and ultimately replaced by the retiree? I’d bet on the latter. Meaningful growth in Sheridan will never occur without meaningful jobs.

No offense to the business, but the building of fast-food restaurants falls far short of economic stimulation and access to living wages. This community desperately needs industry and professional trades to offer an increased chance for success for our real future — the youth. Yet, if history repeats itself, the anti-everything vein will rear its ugly head, infecting any enterprising ideals, leaving Sheridan to flounder in its perpetual bubble. (A short plug for the previous city leadership is deserved here. The tables on our undeniable lack of infrastructure to accommodate development have finally been turned.)

In short, we simply need good-paying jobs. All the studies and rhetoric are fine for producing data and talking points, but if you want progress, then get out of the way.

 

Tim Lenz

Sheridan


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