By Carrie Haderlie
SHERIDAN — By now, most of Wyoming has heard about ENDOW, Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead’s 2016 brainchild aimed at ongoing efforts to expand the Wyoming economy.
But as the energy around the Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming (ENDOW) Council grew, Sheridan County native Jonathan Updike and his peers began wondering where exactly they fit in.
“Originally, I’d been following the ENDOW effort because it was an exciting time to dream up what could be possible for the state of Wyoming in 20 years, and pave a path for that to come to fruition,” Updike explained.
For years, Wyomingites have heard about the “brain drain” — the fact that many of Wyoming’s skilled youth leave soon after graduating from the University of Wyoming, a community college, technical school or even high school to find work.
Surely ENDOW could help.
“Like many other people in the state, I submitted feedback and followed what the governor’s office was doing … when the preliminary recommendations came out at the end of January of this year, there was nothing urgently needed from the younger workforce, that next generation that would inherit the economy in 20 years,” Updike said.
“I thought that was a really big disconnect, that the people who had perhaps the most immediate, long term stake in the process weren’t being reached out to,” he said.
So Updike, along with several other Wyoming natives in his age group, penned a column called “Millennials will inherit Wyoming’s future, and they should be at the decision-making table,” published in the Casper Star Tribune Feb. 2. The column circulated on social media, and then led to an email from the governor’s office.
It was then that Updike — and ENDOW — began working in earnest to include Wyomingites age 16-35 in the planning process for the state’s future.
In June, ENGAGE became a subsidiary organization of ENDOW, when a group of emerging businesspeople and stakeholders gathered on the University of Wyoming campus for “a summit focused on shaping Wyoming’s future, taking the chance to make their thoughts, hopes, and vision for Wyoming heard,” according to ENDOW.
Recommendations resulting from the summit will be given to the ENDOW Executive Committee for its consideration as it develops its final 20-year report.
“When looking at a 20 year plan as ENDOW is doing, to me it’s absolutely necessary to seek input from a younger generation,” said Amber Pollock, ENDOW Executive Council member and co-founder/partner at Backwards Distilling Company in Mills.
Pollock was appointed to the ENDOW Executive Council this summer and falls within the ENGAGE age demographic.
“Today’s youth will be heavily impacted through adulthood by actions our state takes now,” she said. “Young people offer new perspectives and aren’t as entrenched in doing things a certain way because it’s how it’s always been done.
“We should actively be seeking out participation from people who can help us break out of the tendency to gravitate to the known, and consider new ideas with fresh eyes,” Pollock said.
ENGAGE hopes to become a longitudinal effort that represents its target age demographic at a state level, Updike said.
Updike graduated with a doctor of medicine from the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons in May 2018, and is undergoing a psychiatry residency at Stanford Health Care. Though he doesn’t live in Wyoming full-time, he cares very much about the state’s future.
“We want (ENGAGE) to include people who reside within Wyoming, and people who have a connection to Wyoming but might not physically be within the geographic boundary,” he said.
Updike has turned his leadership role over to Amber Savage, current ENGAGE president, and Vice President Madison Mankin.
Mankin said ENGAGE is working on its own bylaws and strategic plan, and has a leadership team of 15 people from and with connections to the state. ENGAGE leadership meets regularly, and is expanding to include 30 members at large.
Mankin plans to attend the next ENDOW Executive Council meeting in October.
“This will take some time, but we don’t want to lose momentum,” Mankin said. “While we’re working on the strategic plan and our bylaws, we’re empowering people in the council to start forming subcommittees that mix someone from our leadership team with members at-large.”
As far as Updike knows, ENGAGE is the first organization in the U.S. where there is a next-generation group collaborating directly with governor’s office at a state level.
“This is not just a leadership project. This is translating those skills we’ve received in our Wyoming education into practice,” he said.
Pollock said she looks forward to hearing from ENGAGE at a state level.
“Many people in the emerging business person age demographic have recent experiences with the barriers to start-up that (people) with more established businesses have moved far beyond,” she said. “Additionally, many of these business people are participating in new and emerging industries and can provide insight into how we can better support new industries in our state.”
The Empowering the Next Generations to Advance and Grow the Economy (ENGAGE) Council is open to Wyomingites, ages 16-35, who hope to encourage dynamic and inclusive discussions from Wyoming’s next generation to craft a thriving and diverse economic future.
To get involved, contact ENGAGE Chief of Outreach Mikole Soto at firstname.lastname@example.org or Chief of Marketing Jasmine Varos at email@example.com.