SHERIDAN — When Weatherby executives announced last year that the company would move its entire operation to Sheridan, some local residents and economic development proponents expressed high hopes for the impact of the decision.

Now, approximately 18 months after the decision was made public, the company will host a grand opening celebration Thursday.

Since the groundbreaking in spring 2018, the employees of the well-known firearms company have worked to make the transition to the new facility seamless.

Company President Adam Weatherby said in January the move would add 65-90 jobs to the community over the next several years. As it stands now, Weatherby said 18 of the California-based employees made the move to Wyoming. An additional 15 or so employees were hired for skilled trades from out of state and 50 individuals were hired from Wyoming and the Sheridan area.

“Some of the local employees came from other local companies,” Weatherby acknowledged.

“But in speaking with other manufacturing companies, rising tides raise all boats.”

By bringing more talent to the area, which has become a hub for light manufacturers, the hope is that the talent pool from which all companies draw will grow.

Weatherby said the company’s three-to-five-year plan for growth will depend on the success of the industry as a whole, though he noted that the new facility is approximately 30,000 square feet larger than the California setup.

One of the biggest challenges of making the move to Sheridan centered on the people aspect of operating a business. More than 3,500 applicants applied for job openings, which required many hours to sort through applications and conduct interviews. Then, as new employees came on board, they had to travel to California to be trained on the company’s systems.

“We couldn’t just open the doors in Sheridan and have all these employees who don’t know what to do,” Weatherby said of the training new staff experienced.

Weatherby credited many entities with making the transition to Sheridan smooth; they included Wyoming Business Council, Sheridan Economic and Educational Development Authority, city of Sheridan and Whitney Benefits, among others.

“Through construction of the new facility and transition, the SEEDA has done its best to be supportive; while Weatherby’s leadership has worked many long hours with the project team to successfully bring the everything together,” said Robert Briggs, director of SEEDA. “It has been incredible to see how much has been accomplished in so short a time.”

Weatherby said he plans to advocate for other businesses to make the move to Wyoming. He has invited other industry representatives to the grand opening Thursday and has fielded reference phone calls from prospective other businesses considering relocation.

“Looking to the future, I believe that success will again be built on preparation and collaboration,” Briggs said. “Workforce and housing will be ongoing challenges for Sheridan to grapple with. SEEDA will continue to partner with other stakeholders on workforce development and job creation projects.”

Briggs noted that as the Vacutech expansion and Kennon projects get underway, one of the critical questions facing SEEDA will be how to create additional project-ready sites for industry relocation or expansion.

“Opportunities like Weatherby are rare, and I think it is important to realize that much of Sheridan’s success will come from working within the community to support existing businesses, helping where we can to help them address their challenges,” Briggs said. “The unique SEEDA partnership will help the community be ready for future prospects whether local investment or those attracted to the community by what we have to offer.”

The Weatherby grand opening will be Thursday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. It is open to the public and will include tours, raffles, a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 1 p.m. and comments from First Lady Jenny Gordon, former Gov. Matt Mead and others from the area.

The visitor center will also have historical documents, classic taxidermy and opportunities to learn about Weatherby history.