“Don’t forget to dance with the gal that brung ya!” As a kid I wasn’t sure what it meant. My dad explained to me, it means, before you start looking around, make sure you take care of what’s right in front of you.
That old adage is true in economic development as well. It’s a well known fact that the most job creation will come from businesses you already have. While it’s very exciting and desirable to attract new firms to Sheridan that hire Sheridan people, it’s important to nurture and grow the job creating businesses that already exist here.
The Wadley Donovan Study highlighted two local businesses in particular that are native and growing in Sheridan organically: data centers and light manufacturing.
Obviously, the city council and I are eager to help in any way we can within the proper scope of limited government to see these industries flourish and grow. We need to identify the critical success factors and define the proper role of City Hall in assisting with the development of these industries.
In my last guest opinion piece I talked about light, niche manufacturing businesses in Sheridan being held back by a lack of skilled workers.
The Whitney Foundation recently announced a $1 million “challenge grant” over five years to hire four new instructors at the college including three in technical areas (machine tool, welding, and diesel technology). This would double the capacity of these programs.
At the March 18th city council meeting, the city council unanimously voted to accept the Whitney challenge and provide a match of $250,000 to the Whitney challenge grant to fund one new technical instructor position at the college. This will be done over four years with one cent funds approved by the voters for economic development. The college is proceeding to recruit for this instructor position with the idea of this person being on board for this falls’ semester. Hopefully there will be more organizations coming forth – soon – to match the Whitney challenge grant which will, in turn, create more job opportunities for Sheridan and greater prosperity for our community.
With respect to data centers, the study stated that Sheridan is an ideal location for the data center sector in a number of respects such as geography, weather, labor, internet access and redundancy. The report however, did highlight one significant shortcoming in Sheridan – a lack of redundant electrical power.
Because of the lack of redundant power, a data center considering locating in Sheridan would be categorized as a “tier three.” Tier four is the highest rating and the rating necessary to attract large companies like Microsoft as Cheyenne has done. All that is lacking for Sheridan to be able to accommodate Fortune 500 companies from around the world is redundant electrical power. Cheyenne did it — they built a fuel cell that utilizes “green power”, burning waste from their water treatment plant which in turn attracted the interest of Microsoft among other large companies for the creation of many jobs in Cheyenne.
I believe it is incumbent upon City Hall to understand the needs of the community and to convene the appropriate players to see that those resources come to the table sooner rather than later. The city council, city staff and various businesses in the community will be reaching out to electrical providers to see what we might do to “supercharge” our data center businesses.
We have much work ahead of us. This is an exciting time in the life of Sheridan, our home. The city council, and the community, are working together to see that our community’s quality of life is preserved, and our economy is revitalized.
Dave Kinskey is the mayor of Sheridan.