SHERIDAN — Bill Dahlin, a Sheridan businessman running for governor, made campaign stops in Sheridan Wednesday and discussed what he would aim to accomplish as Wyoming’s next governor.
Dahlin said the state’s economy will be the most pressing concern for the next governor. Though statistics have indicated the state is recovering from its most recent bust cycle, Dahlin said they do not tell the whole story.
“We’ve had about 8,500 people leave the state in the last year,” Dahlin said. “If you look at the unemployment rate at the end of March, it was about 3.9 percent. That’s because the unemployed have left. So the ratio looks good, but the economy doesn’t.”
Reversing that trend, he said, will require the state to become more fiscally responsible and find ways to diversify its economy.
To reduce government spending, Dahlin said he would sell the two jet airplanes the state owns, which he estimates will recoup about $5 million for the state and save about $2.5 million a year in operating costs.
In addition, Dahlin said he would look to state employees, rather than outside consulting firms, to identify inefficiencies in the state government.
“We need to empower our state employees,” he said. “We spend millions of dollars on out-of-state consultants telling us how we ought to run our state. I’m going to say no more of that; let’s let our people on the local level determine their destiny and incentivize them to do that.”
Dahlin said he believes a combination of those cuts and economic diversification efforts will allow the state to move forward without having to make drastic reductions in services like education.
Economic diversification is the central issue of Dahlin’s campaign. However, he said he is skeptical of economic diversification bodies like the Wyoming Business Council and ENDOW initiative.
“The Wyoming Business Council was developed 20 years ago because we were dependent on the energy sector by a 70 percent ratio; we developed [it] to diversify our economy,” Dahlin said. “Twenty years later, and almost a billion dollars, hundreds of millions of dollars spent, we are still 70 percent dependent on the energy sector. And now we’ve doubled down with the ENDOW program…I don’t question the intent of those entities; I question their results.”
He added he would look to reduce the size of entities like ENDOW and task them with clear, measurable goals so the state could make changes if those goals are not achieved.
The failure to reduce dependence on the energy sector was evident in the most recent budget session, Dahlin said, as legislators struggled to find funds for boom-time spending during a bust cycle.
“We have to be fiscally responsible and we have to look for low-hanging fruit that we can actually go after to [add to our economy],” Dahlin said.
One area Dahlin said he believes the state can expand is agriculture, specifically by encouraging more meat processing in state, rather than shipping it out.
He also believes the state has an economic opportunity to expand into the cultivation of industrial hemp, which is used in products ranging from clothing, to biodegradable plastics, to health foods. Dahlin said the demand for hemp products in the United States is growing and Wyoming could see a massive increase in jobs and revenue if the state promotes the growth, processing and manufacture of industrial hemp products.
Dahlin is one of seven Republican candidates running for governor. He will compete against Mark Gordon, Sam Galeotos, Harriet Hageman, Taylor Haynes, Rex Rammell and Foster Friess in the Republican primary Aug. 21. Mary Throne is the only Democratic candidate who has entered the race so far. The state’s general election will be held Nov. 6.