SHERIDAN — Sheridan Mayor John Heath and Sheridan College President Paul Young held a roundtable discussion and luncheon with local manufacturers Tuesday at Sheridan College to discuss issues that might have a negative impact on the manufacturing industry in Sheridan.
Drawing from concerns mentioned by manufacturers at a similar discussion in April, the group talked about problems that might arise for various industries that wish to move to Sheridan or for existing industries that need to bring in employees.
The issues discussed included the availability of broadband, housing and air service.
Aaron Sopko, general manager of Advanced Communication Technology, spoke of the growing availability of broadband in the area. He told those present that his company offers a fully redundant network that connects with other networks in Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado and Idaho, meaning company sites will continue to work even if one network has been interrupted.
Bruce Garber of Century 21 discussed the issue of housing in the area, a concern for employers who are hiring talent from out of state. He said Sheridan currently has a buyers market with about a seven-month supply of housing. Much of that market is under $300,000, with an average market time of 90 days, giving incoming employees time to look for a place to live. A larger concern was the lack of availability of rentals.
The group talked about rents still being lower than the 2008 rental prices, but also about the change in demographics. It was noted that fewer people were looking to buy homes, making supply short. It also means less time for prospective employees to look for what they might consider suitable housing. Also of concern was the overall quality of rentals and the dissatisfaction of white collar workers to live in housing they consider substandard.
The final portion of the discussion focused on the future of Sheridan’s air service. Sheridan currently provides daily air service to Denver, but changes in FAA regulations are making retaining pilots difficult. Recent FAA regulations require copilots to have 1,500 hours of flight time rather than 250 hours, causing a drop in available co-pilots.
Peter Schoonmaker, representing the Wyoming Department of Transportation’s Aeronautic Commission District 5, also talked about how the 50-seat aircraft commonly used at the Sheridan County Airport were being retired, causing a need for another type of aircraft. He acknowledged that the lack of pilots also causes problems with the reliability of air travel.
Schoonmaker said that there were talks with United, Great Lakes and a possible third air service provider interested in working out of Sheridan. He touched on the $500,000 air service grant the Sheridan County Airport recently received for revenue guarantees and called it a great start for making air service out of Sheridan more reliable.