SHERIDAN — The Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce plans to relocate to office space in the First Interstate Bank building on South Main Street in April, according to Chamber Chief Executive Officer Dixie Johnson.
The Chamber will take over the bank’s 24 South Main Street Office, which currently houses its Wealth Management Department.
Johnson said the move was prompted by the continued expansion of Chamber’s co-tenant, Bighorn Design but will also give the organization more flexibility to capitalize on opportunities to co-locate with other local economic development organizations should those opportunities present themselves.
The Chamber began considering relocating as its board of directors reviewed the organization’s strategic plan from years prior. As the board was discussing a move, Bighorn Design’s owner P.J. Treide approached Johnson about expanding his production operations into the Chamber’s current offices.
“One thing that I knew we didn’t want to do was stand in the way or take over a prime retail spot,” Johnson said. “We want our downtown community to have a really diverse industry sector.”
Johnson and the board explored several locations but settled on an available office in the First Interstate building due to its location and because it is already set up as office space.
The move also comes amid discussions about all of the local economic development agencies moving under one roof to share some overhead costs and develop more synergy.
Sheridan’s Wyoming Technology Business Center Director Scot Rendall initially floated the idea during discussions about transforming the local incubator into an “innovation center,” a concept detailed in legislation passed as part of the Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming initiative during the Legislature’s last budget session.
The ENDOW Executive Council identified the WTBCs in Sheridan and Casper as ideal candidates to become pilot innovation centers, which would operate as more robust versions of WTBCs with support from the Wyoming Business Council and ENDOW.
Should the Pilot Innovation Center concept come to fruition, Rendall suggested bringing all of the local economic development organizations under one roof. The organizations would remain distinct entities under that plan, but Rendall said he believes there would be more opportunities for cost savings and collaboration if they shared a building.
Johnson said that plan is still conceptual, but she believes it would be beneficial.
“Having us all in different locations sometimes isn’t the best when we have maybe a great lead, when we need resources, when we could actually capitalize on the expertise that the other organizations could bring,” Johnson said. “We’ve had several times where we’ve had someone walk through the door and I wanted to connect them with somebody. It would be great to say, ‘They’re right upstairs,’ or, ‘They’re right down the hall.’”
City and county officials are still negotiating with ENDOW and the Wyoming Business Council on moving forward with the innovation center concept, and there are no definite plans at this time. However, the Chamber’s lease with First Interstate will be renewed month-to-month, which will allow it to move again if necessary.
In the meantime, Johnson said the new location will allow the Chamber to move into a ready-made office space and maintain its presence on Main Street.
“We’re very excited and really look forward to continue to be on Main Street,” Johnson said. “It’s great because we have so many people who come into the Chamber — we operate as a front door to the community.”
The Chamber’s current lease expires in April and Johnson said the group plans to move sometime during that month.