SHERIDAN — As Sheridan’s manufacturing sector continues to grow, Becky Cooper sits at the helm of one business poised for big things.

Kennon builds protective covers for the U.S. military, hospitals and other industries using advanced materials science and new technology.

The company is also poised for growth. Earlier this year, the State Loan and Investment Board approved a $3.2 million grant and loan project to Sheridan Economic and Educational Development Authority to build a 40,000-square-foot manufacturing facility that Kennon will utilize.

With the help of the grant, Kennon will be able to explore new product lines and aims to hire nearly 40 new employees.

Cooper works as Kennon’s vice president of engineering, which means she oversees design for production and research and development efforts. She’s also co-leading the effort to coordinate the development of the new facility in Sheridan’s Hi-Tech Park.

While Heyward admits she spends a lot of time at work — something she notes apologetically but also with a bit of joy — she has found time to engage in other areas of the community.

She currently serves as a Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce board member. Through that experience, Cooper noted how impressed she has been with how Sheridan “shows up.”

“There is so much energy and commitment in Sheridan that you don’t see other place,” she said.

Cooper has also participated in the Wyoming Women’s Antelope Hunt with the Wyoming Women’s Foundation. She also enjoys running and getting outside.

Like other young professionals in the area, while she loves the Sheridan community, she also enjoys leaving.

“I love to explore other cultures, especially the food,” Cooper said. “But I also love to come home.”

She credits her drive and ability to push her own comfort zone to mentors like her mother and the people with whom she works. The teamwork and synergy that comes from effective cooperation, she said, is a different kind of mentorship that many often overlook.

While it can prove challenging to recruit young professionals to the area, Cooper said it’s important for community leaders and employers to keep an open mind.

While some bemoan the perks many younger employees seek, Cooper stressed the need to look at those and figure out ways to make them work. Those extras are as effective as salary in recruiting, she said, and if that’s what it takes to lure a younger workforce to the area, it likely will pay off.

“We (as a community) need to keep an open mind about who we want to be and protect what we like, but be welcoming and flexible for things that maybe make us uncomfortable,” Cooper said.

As Kennon continues to grow and hire additional staff over the coming years, Cooper will like help shape not only the future of Kennon, but the future of Sheridan.