SHERIDAN — Former city planning director Robert Briggs will begin as the planning director for the Northern Wyoming Community College District this week, primarily to act as an administrator for the Sheridan Economic and Educational Development Authority.

Briggs left Sheridan after 13 years as the city’s planning director to take over as the planning director in Cheyenne last year.

Sheridan College Vice President for Administration and Chief Financial Officer Cheryl Heath said the planning director is a new position in SEEDA that was created because the organization’s growth in recent years was placing increased demands on college staff.

“The background Robert already has, not only as planning director, but writing grants and working for the city of Sheridan previously, will let him really hit the ground running,” Heath said.

“He knows the players and the folks he’ll be working with and he’s been involved with these economic development associations already.” 

Heath said the planning director will handle many of the day-to-day operations of SEEDA projects as well as look at business attraction to the area and conduct economic and financial analysis of potential SEEDA projects.

Sheridan College and the city will jointly fund Brigg’s salary.

SEEDA is a joint powers board operated by the Northern Wyoming Community College District and city of Sheridan for the purpose of purchasing and developing property to promote economic development.

Currently, SEEDA is involved with the construction of Weatherby’s manufacturing facility and the expansion of Vacutech’s facility in Sheridan’s High-Tech Park.

Briggs said his immediate role will be to manage SEEDA’s involvement in those large projects, but in the long term he will help the authority develop forward-looking goals.

“I’ll be working closely with the college and city representatives [on the SEEDA board] to talk about the long-term strategy for SEEDA and where does it go next now that it’s starting to see an increase in the resources available to it,” Briggs said. “How do we continue to foster that interaction between education opportunities and economic development, which is really SEEDA’s mandate?”

He highlighted the development of advanced manufacturing courses at Sheridan College to allow for the training of a local workforce companies like Weatherby and Vacutech can use as one of the projects that demonstrates SEEDA’s potential.

“That shows how we can influence the workforce pipeline to make sure that it meets the needs of both the existing employers in the community and the region, but also look for opportunities to move into new areas of workforce training and growth,” Briggs said.

As the local workforce grows, however, Sheridan and the surrounding areas will need to find ways to develop affordable housing that can accommodate that growth. Briggs said he will also be involved with exploring ways to encourage more affordable housing in the community.

“It doesn’t make sense to attempt to help grow a workforce when they won’t be able to remain in the community, or even enter the community, without adequate housing,” Briggs said.

Briggs’ first day was Monday and Heath said his plate is already full.

“I went into his calendar to add some orientation things we do for new employees and it’s already filled up with meetings,” Heath said. “That was great to see.”

SEEDA will hold its next meeting Tuesday morning at the Whitney Academic Center.