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SHERIDAN — British Consul General Beverley Simpson recently spent two days in Sheridan on an 11-day fact finding and relationship building mission in Wyoming. Simpson is based in Denver and is the British government representative to Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico.
“My agreement is really to help establish links, and partnerships, and collaborations between those three states and the UK,” Simpson said.
Simpson was appointed to Denver in December 2011 and will serve a three- to four-year term. She is a career diplomat who has served around the world in China, India, Africa, Europe, the Caribbean and most recently in Iraq, which she said made her familiar with the energy sector and eager to learn more about energy production in northeast Wyoming.
“My trip is about several things,” Simpson said.
“First of all to promote what the UK is doing in this part of the country, to learn more about what is happening here from an economic standpoint, from an education standpoint, business and trade and what’s happening on that side of things so I can better understand where there’s a possibility for opportunities with the UK,” Simpson said.
Simpson arrived mid-afternoon Monday and left Tuesday morning to continue her tour, but she packed in a variety of meetings with leaders in local education, economic development, tourism and government.
In tribute to a past British visitor, Simpson also toured the same places visited by Queen Elizabeth in 1984, making stops at King’s Saddlery, The Brinton Museum, the polo fields, a saloon in Big Horn and various local cafes. She stayed at Residence Hill Bed & Breakfast and was able to enjoy an English tea with fellow visitors.
“I’ve had a wonderful visit, and I’ve really got a very good flavor for everything that the town has to offer, and that the county has to offer,” Simpson said.
Simpson said she believes there are clear opportunities for British business to work with Wyoming’s energy sector. She also noted that the UK would be interested in looking at Wyoming’s energy policy, particularly in regards to hydraulic fracturing, an area the UK is considering in order to diversify its own energy portfolio.
“There has already been an initial agreement to start natural gas exports from the U.S. to the European Union from 2015, and I think that’s going to be a benefit to this area and to Wyoming as a whole because obviously gas extraction here fluctuates depending on the value of gas within the country,” Simpson said. “By offering energy companies another avenue by which to export their gas or oil allows it to stabilize the price, and that allows energy companies to better protect what they need and to invest.”
The European Union needs natural gas for its power stations, as well as to directly pump it into people’s homes for heat, Simpson said. Currently the EU cannot produce enough natural gas for its own use and relies on imports from Russia, which is not ideal, Simpson said.
“We’re keen to diversify where we get our energy from,” Simpson said.
Trade was another key focal point for Simpson on her visit. She noted that Sheridan County has a diverse economy with its lifestyle entrepreneurship, data centers, dude ranches, energy production and niche manufacturing.
“I think that makes Sheridan interesting and means there could be potential links with some of those companies,” Simpson said.
Simpson highlighted recent negotiations in Washington, D.C., that focused on an aggressive free-trade agreement between the U.S. and the EU.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership would be the biggest bilateral trade deal ever negotiated and could result in billions of dollars worth of savings on both sides of the Atlantic, in addition to the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs, according to a fact sheet released by the White House prior to the July 8 negotiations. The agreement would further open trade markets and eliminate all tariffs on trade, promoting the global competitiveness of small- and medium-sized enterprises.
Simpson said benefits of the free-trade deal could be many for Sheridan, noting that intellectual property — patents, trademarks, etc. — protected in the U.S. would also be protected in the EU, saving small start-ups $150,000 to $200,000. For example, small companies could also license products in the EU to receive a licensing fee, which could serve as a capital boost and enable the company to expand its U.S. business, as well.
Wyoming exports to the United Kingdom currently total $30 million per year, and exports to the EU are $100 million per year, Simpson said, and she believes the free-trade agreement could greatly increase exports and imports with Wyoming. While finalization of the agreement is likely two years out, she encouraged Wyomingites to encourage their congressional representatives to support the agreement.
The UK is the third largest international tourism group in Wyoming, Simpson said. She noted that British travellers tend to travel solo, rather than on tour buses, and spend more time and money in the state than many other tourists.
She encouraged Sheridan to market its tourism possibilities — Devil’s Tower, dude ranches, Yellowstone, the Bighorn Mountains — in the European market, taking advantage of direct flights between London and Denver. She said many British tourists will fly into Denver, rent a car, and head into Wyoming to see the Tetons and Yellowstone before driving over the Bighorns, often stopping in Sheridan, to head to Devil’s Tower and into the Dakotas.
“I think that’s a real opportunity for Sheridan,” Simpson said.
She said Wyoming should encourage travel writers to do the same circuit and write about it to foster tourism interest in the UK and bring more tourists to the state.
“It’s beautiful,” Simpson said about the Sheridan area. “I think first of all, it’s stunningly beautiful and I think it has an awful lot to offer.”