Last week, the State Land and Investment Board approved a business ready community grant and loan for the Sheridan Economic and Educational Development Authority in support of the expansion of Kennon Products, Inc. The combination grant and loan will allow Kennon to construct a manufacturing facility on four acres in the Sheridan High Tech Park and provide an opportunity for Kennon to deliver new products and expand on its business opportunities.

This is just one example of how manufacturing in our area is growing. Couple Kennon’s expansion with that of Vacutech’s, a company that relocated to Sheridan several years ago and is soon to undergo an expansion of its own adjacent to its current facility, it’s evident that Sheridan is emerging as a leader in the state when it comes to diversifying its economy. Why is this important? One simple answer: Jobs! Jobs for our families, friends and, perhaps most importantly, our children.

Last spring, I accompanied other community leaders to a Next Generation Sector Partnership Academy in Lander, an opportunity provided by the Wyoming Workforce Development Council, Wyoming Business Council, Wyoming Department of Education, Workforce Services, Wyoming Excels and Wyoming Adult Education College and Career Readiness and the Governor’s Office. The training provided hundreds of leaders from around the state to review labor market statistics for their regions. Sheridan and Johnson counties teamed up and selected the manufacturing industry to create a sector partnership in our area, and on Nov. 1 we launched the Sheridan-Johnson Counties Manufacturing Sector Partnership.

At that launch, 11 manufacturing industry leaders, representing a cross-section in both counties, came together to identify opportunities and actions to promote the growth of the sector. Also attending as observers were 19 community partners, aka the “sector support team,” comprised of economic development, workforce services, education, private business and government officials.

From that first launch meeting, the industry identified its top priorities to support the industry and drive growth (new and improved products, growing markets, emerging technologies, policy impacts and collective industry energy), and from those priorities identified two areas for action.

The first action area focuses on improving the quantity and quality of the local pipeline of manufacturing talent by achieving better alignment between the industry and local education, as well as marketing manufacturing as a source of great career opportunities for residents.

The second action area is focused on a manufacturing business-to-business exchange and collaboration and includes establishing an ongoing manufacturing roundtable as a focal point for exchanging knowledge among local companies, plus creating collaborations to address common needs. Two groups emerged from that first launch meeting and have since been tackling their priorities as teams.

I’m excited to continue working with co-convener Kassi Trujillo-Sullivan, our industry leaders and co-chairs from Kennon, Vacutech, and Mountain Meadow Wool, and the community’s sector support team. We’ve set the next partnership meeting for Feb. 5 and are seeing interest soar from both industry professionals and community leaders.

As a catalyst for business prosperity and a champion for a stronger community, the Chamber plans to continue its support to sustain this sector partnership and explore additional opportunities to help other industries develop their own Next Gen partnerships.


Dixie Johnson is the CEO of the Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce.