Last week was the Sheridan County Chamber’s annual business meeting. I probably shouldn’t start with that sentence because you might not even be reading this one. Don’t start reading the comics yet!
While business meetings are not usually top on the list for exciting topics, I really want to share a few things that I believe are noteworthy from the Chamber of Commerce perspective over the past year that give a clear view of the current business climate in Sheridan County.
The past year or so has seen a rough spell for Wyoming and state legislators who are now in session with more huge budget cuts ahead. It would be easy to expect the Chamber of Commerce to follow suit, but not in Sheridan County! We had another year of growth in membership, gaining 58 new members. In the past five years the Chamber has grown by 22 percent, ending 2016 with a high of 642 Chamber members. While we have seen a slower year in the business community than in some peak years, the Sheridan community continues to be strong, diverse and willing to keep investing in the Chamber and the community. Our retention rate is almost 94 percent, which is significantly higher than the national average of 80 to 85 percent. We are thrilled that our members find value in our mission to promote, protect and prosper local businesses and our community.
It’s exciting to see new businesses popping up and thriving as well. The Chamber Ambassadors performed 49 ribbon cuttings for a wide variety of new businesses, new buildings and new owners. Diverse business models are keeping this small western town competitive regionally and in the global market. The Chamber is proud of the hard working business people we serve as they exhibit adaptability and creativity in their leadership as they start new businesses and keep growing existing businesses.
Something that is hard for us to measure, but we gauge by our experience, is the number of businesses and families who are looking at Sheridan County as their new home. We send out hundreds of relocation packets each year and get the privilege to talk with people who stop by our downtown office. We are lucky because many people who have made the move have stopped in to let us know and we get to hear their stories of why this community was their top choice. We hear it all: great school districts, the mountains (of course!), the sense of community and friendly people, and the small town with lots to offer. People love the downtown in Sheridan, and they love the small communities like Big Horn, Story, Dayton and Ranchester that give them breathing room. If you are ever feeling down about living here, don’t! I’ve heard from quite a few people that could have lived anywhere in the nation and they chose Sheridan County.
Finally, I can’t end without saying something about the more than 200 volunteers that give their time and resources to the Chamber and all our projects. While it may seem like a lot of people just complain about things in this world, from our perspective, we get to see the people in our community that forego the complaining, roll up their sleeves, and get engaged with creating a better community. It is a breath of fresh air to work with our volunteers because they are excited about making Sheridan County a great place to do business and live and they show up to do something about it. I would give you all their names, but I don’t want you to get any ideas.
Our 2016 was successful and that gives us even more reason to be excited about what 2017 will bring here at the Chamber. We would love to hear from you if you have any ideas or questions for us and how we can better serve the business community. Give us a call at 672-2485 or stop in at our office at 171 N. Main.
Ryan Koltiska is the director of marketing and communication for the Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce.