SHERIDAN — Sheridan city councilors expressed opposing views on government financial involvement in the Wyoming Technology Business Center in Sheridan as it moves and expands into what will be known as the Innovation Center and Economic Development Co-Location facility. Ultimately, council voted 6-1 in support of the letter supporting the center.
Councilor Jacob Martin spoke to Councilor Clint Beaver’s opposition to the letter of support and financial backing for the project, which would potentially include the Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce, Forward Sheridan, North Main Association, Downtown Sheridan Association and Phorge Makerspace.
“One of the biggest issues Wyoming’s facing and the last big issue — even on the governor debate stage — is we have a labor shortage,” Martin said. “We don’t have a lot of working-age people or diversity here.”
Beaver opposed the motion to support a letter written from the city of Sheridan to the Wyoming Business Council in support of the innovation center pilot program offered through the WBC.
In addition to simple verbal support, the city would support Sheridan County’s application requesting $125,000 per year over a two-year period for the program. The city also stated it would continue its funding commitment, which was established years ago when the WTBC first started in Sheridan.
“As I’ve studied the services provided by this program, it’s my conclusion that all those services can be provided by the private sector,” Beaver said. “We don’t need to have a public entity, taxpayer funded, to accomplish that.”
Beaver continued to say he doesn’t like the government intruding on the private sector.
“I don’t support spending the tax dollars the city has been spending or proposes to spend to compete with private business interest,” Beaver said.
Martin provided the example of his personal experience with starting a business and how opportunities like pro bono legal counsel — nodding to Beaver’s full-time position as an attorney — was not available him but that the WTBC provided expertise he would likely not have found for free elsewhere.
“I think if a city and government can support that, even just with a letter of support, I think that’s a good move,” Martin said.
Mayor Roger Miller said in two years he might crack down harder on the WTBC, but for now he’s reviewed past years of support and the success is evident. Several people with incubator success stories came to speak to council Monday, as well, in hopes of them supporting the letter.
The request for proposals process through Sheridan County for the proposed Innovation Center continues, now with the support and backing from the city of Sheridan.