SHERIDAN — The Sheridan Economic and Educational Development Authority welcomed three representatives from two different consulting firms Wednesday to complete research and move into phase two of formulating an upadated economic development strategy. Joel Simon and Sarah Miller from the Counsel for Adult and Experiential Learning and Tony DeLisi from partner firm Avalanche Consulting will be interviewing educators, business owners and local government officials over the next three days to compile information that will ultimately be used to plan strategies to streamline local educational opportunities with economic needs.
The consultants are building upon a 2007 study done by the Wadley-Donovan Group that identified a handful of niche markets in Sheridan County to serve as target sectors for economic development efforts: information technology, light manufacturing, tourism, creative arts and office operations. That information is now being upgraded.
“2007 was a while ago,” Simon said. “A lot has happened in the national economy, and a lot has happened locally since then.”
Simon said this time he and his team are hoping to verify information contained in the previous study and determine its present-day relevance. While phase one of the study consists of updating the target industry profile, phase two of the study involves defining and reprioritizing the best opportunities for economic development and wealth creation in the community. From there, educational opportunities can be adjusted for maximum benefit to Sheridan’s students, either traditional or those retraining for second careers.
“Both of those things will roll up into dual strategies,” Simon explained. “I’ll call them two sides of the same coin. One is what we want to do to support the revised target industries in ways that may have nothing to do with education and training. That’s buck one of many factors that affect whether companies are successful and whether people get jobs and all of that sort of thing. And then, on the other side of that coin is the education and training strategies.”
Simon and Miller will be working with groups of educators to examine potential growth areas for local training opportunities. DeLisi will meet with employers and other economic development stakeholders, to include realtors, utility representatives, tourism entities and the Chamber of Commerce.
Total consulting fees for the project are just under $65,000. The Wyoming Business Council has committed a $50,000 grant toward the effort. The rest of the funds will be paid by SEEDA and the City of Sheridan.
Also at Wednesday’s regularly scheduled meeting, SEEDA chair John Heath reported he visited the First Light Children’s Center and was pleased by the reports he received from the facility’s staff. Heath indicated that while enrollment isn’t as strong as it could be, he and the First Light staff remain confident the program will grow.“They’re looking forward into their third and fourth and fifth year,” Heath said, adding the organization is searching externally for someone to fill the director position long-term.
SEEDA owns the building that currently houses First Light. The previous daycare and preschool that occupied the building, Hand in Hand, closed due to financial difficulties.