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SHERIDAN — Sheridan College can be a catalyst for economic development in Sheridan County, Northern Wyoming Community College District President Paul Young told City Council members at a work session Monday.
The work session — the first of three to be held over the next three weeks — was requested by City Council to further explore the college’s special election on Aug. 20 for a general obligation bond that will enable the college to renovate and expand its technical education center.
The $15.85 million bond would have a 16-year term limit. It would increase property taxes by approximately $2.09 per month per $100,000 of property value owned, Young said. The additional taxes collected on all property in the county would be used to pay off the loan for construction costs.
“I do think it’s important for us to continue to build our relationship and sort of be on the same page and make sure that what we’re doing at the college aligns with where the community feels the economic future is,” Young said.
College staff have identified three areas of study that would align with the economic foundation of Sheridan County: agriculture, arts and culture and manufacturing. Moving toward the future, the college hopes to key in on those three areas in order to produce a workforce that will have the skills and knowledge to actively pursue real opportunities in Sheridan’s economy.
“One of the things I want to do is convince you — if you’re not convinced already — that you already have in your community one of the most powerful tools for economic development that anyone in any community in this country has — and not many communities have them — and that is a two-year college,” Young said, noting that only 17 percent of towns and cities in America have at least one college.
Young shared an example from a community college in Walla Walla, Wash., that implemented a wine making degree program, which eventually lead to the creation of dozens of vineyards and wine tasting rooms, turning Walla Walla’s economy around by bringing in tourists and creating jobs.
Sheridan College’s plan for workforce development includes making it (manufacturing), creating it (arts and culture) and growing it (agriculture), Young said. Expanding the college’s technical education center will be one of its first steps toward implementing its workforce development plan.
The college currently turns away two or three students for every one student accepted into its welding, machine tool and diesel programs, Young said. The expansion and renovation would update current facilities and add approximately 27,000 square feet of education space.
“Every student who comes out has a job. Employers still can’t hire enough people, and we’re turning students away. It sounds like there is an easy fix for our local troubles,” Mayor Dave Kinskey said.
Councilors Kristin Kelly and Alex Lee both expressed support for the bond issue following Young’s presentation. Nearly 10 college staff members were present to show support. One community member who does not support the bond issue was present but was not invited to share her concerns.
The next Council work session regarding the college bond issue will be held at noon Monday in the mayor’s office.