Gov. Mark Gordon’s business summit gathering in Cheyenne this week was good for Sheridan. We had featured companies, featured speakers and many Sheridan businesses and elected officials attending.
One of the sessions, on Wednesday, was focused on business success. A featured success story was Vacutech LLC and their journey to select Sheridan for the relocation of their business from Colorado. John Tucker, CEO, provided a clear picture to the packed house of his journey to Sheridan and the establishment of Vacutech LLC in our community. Within his presentation were two specific items that are characteristic of our community. He was looking at Wyoming as a location target because of the work ethic and community aspects of care and support.
Secondly, an item of great importance to our efforts at Forward Sheridan, was his deliberate due diligence investigating and confirming the business functions — can he get materials competitively? Can he get work force? Is the community and local government supportive of a new venture? These factors, after almost two years, were proven and Vacutech LLC is a vital link in our economic ecosystem.
In closing, which was really on target for the audience, Tucker wrapped up by saying that Vacutech LLC is prospering, expanding and looking for more employees today. Tucker acknowledged that Mayor Dave Kinskey (now Sen. Kinskey), Dave Ferries and Sheridan College were instrumental in making the decision for Vacutech to establish in Sheridan. From our experience, that first tour of the Sheridan College welding and CNC facility was strong and painted a convincing framework that Vacutech LLC would have a good source of talent to build upon.
Economic recovery was a big portion of the summit as a good deal of conversation was focused on the revenue challenges that are looming for our Wyoming Legislature, largely due to significant reductions of state revenue from coal and oil and gas. This is not new information, but the severity is quickly becoming more and more apparent. Extractive industries have been our foundation for over 40 years and now this source of revenue, jobs and opportunity is changing.
Some tidbits that were brought forward, new to many of us, was the accelerated rate of coal plant closures. As reported by Rob Godby from University of Wyoming, some of these closures were not on the radar screen and the sequence of closures is magnifying the reduced demand for Powder River Basin coal. This creates an urgency to address the revenue shortfall. More aggressive state investment policy, coal technology, rainy day funding and cutting state services are all within the discussion framework. The impact on many of our communities is stiff — people without jobs, options are limited and the community resources stretched.
It will be a challenging legislative session. Sheridan, with our broad diversification of industry as well as strong tourism, minimizes the impact, but we will be affected.
Many of the topics at the business summit reinforced the importance of maintaining and supporting existing business. This is one of our board-driven objectives and an ongoing effort.
Jay Stender is CEO of Forward Sheridan.