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 December 1, 1997

ThereÕs more to Wyo.Õs economy than just anti-growth sentiment

CHEYENNE — Wyoming˜s economy isn˜t keeping pace with Northern Colorado˜s or other neighbors in the West, a fact that bothers some Wyomingites but pleases others who fear too much economic growth will destroy their "quality of life."

That fact has been underscored by a number of recent reports — including a respected statewide poll, a national ranking of Wyoming˜s economy, a national newspaper account, a report from the U.S. Census Bureau and most recently the Wyoming Steering Committee for Business Development˜s recommendation for a sweeping overhaul of state economic-development efforts.
"Nearly every economic indicator suggests that Wyoming˜s economy is falling behind the region and the nation," the Steering Committee found. As a consequence, it is recommending a totally revamped economic-development vehicle modeled after corporate models in other states.
The Census Bureau report on median household income showed a dramatic drop in Wyoming, from $33,773 in 1994-95 to $31,707 in 1995-96. That˜s a drop of 6 percent, the second worst in the nation. Overall, the national median household income grew by 1.2 percent from $35,082 to $35,492 during that period. In the West, it rose from $37,041 to $37,125.
The Census Bureau also reports that the percentage of Wyoming residents living in poverty increased 1.3 percent from the previous year, while the national rate is declining. But it also found that the percentage of people without health insurance in Wyoming dropped a point to just less than 15 percent.
Then the Corporation for Enterprise Development gave Wyoming two "D" grades and a "C" in various economic categories, while Colorado was getting "As." The CFED historically has rated Wyoming˜s economy near the bottom, and this year it ranks the state in the bottom 10 for economic performance, though giving good marks for number of entrepreneurs.
That was followed by the Wyoming Heritage Foundation˜s annual public opinion poll, which shows growing dissatisfaction with Wyoming˜s economic-development efforts and an overwhelming desire to improve the state˜s economy through the creation of more jobs (88 percent).
Then there was the Wall Street Journal story by Neal Templin concluding that while most Rocky Mountain states "are teeming with new jobs, new residents, new construction," Wyoming isn˜t among them.
"Despite low taxes, scenic beauty and a well-educated citizenry, Wyoming has lagged behind the nation in almost every economic category," Templin wrote. "The state has averaged annual job growth of just 1.8 percent over five years, and it actually lost jobs in the past year."
More subjective were his conclusions that the reason for the lag behind neighboring states is that Wyoming is gripped by "powerful anti-growth" sentiment that has resulted in "nearly a decade of passively — and sometimes actively — resisting growth."
As one who has lived through Wyoming˜s booms and busts and talked to most of the state˜s political leaders and many of its business leaders, I believe Wyoming˜s economic problems are somewhat more complex than Templin suggests. And there are bright spots, such as recent job growth in Cheyenne, lots of construction and healthy retail sales, as Jack Crews of Cheyenne LEADS conveyed to Templin. That didn˜t make the story.
Perhaps the most telling summation comes from Bill Schilling, executive director of the Wyoming Heritage Society and Foundation, who noted recently that most Wyomingites would welcome growth, but not as much as seen along the Front Range or the Salt Lake Valley. "They view that as too much," he observed.
But the bottom line is irrefutable — Wyoming˜s economy is not keeping pace with its neighbors, a fact that is vexing to most of its leaders but comforting to many of its residents.Frontier Mall adds new stores
CHEYENNE — The Frontier Mall is gearing up for the holidays with a bag full of new stores, led by a new Gart Sports Superstore and Eddie Bauer. With more than triple the space of its old store, the new Gart store offers expanded seasonal sporting-goods equipment as well as ski rentals for the first time.
Other new additions at the mall include Electronics Boutique, an international computer-software chain with more than 600 stores in five countries and its first in Wyoming. Also opening recently was JC Keepsakes Jewelry, a regional chain with locations across Colorado. Seasonal stores include the San Francisco Music Box Co., Wilson˜s Leathers, Christmas Dreams, Day By Day Calendars, Hickory Farms and Wild West Woodworking.
And just in time for the holidays, the mall is offering its own Mall VIP Visa card, which allows chargers to earn rebates equal to 2 percent of their mall purchases up to $750 a year.Lawyer lands ATHENA award
CHEYENNE — The first woman to serve as Wyoming˜s public defender has been honored with the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce˜s annual ATHENA Award for helping women achieve their full leadership potential. Sylvia Lee Hackl has served as public defender since 1995 and previously served as a deputy state attorney general.
Hackl has been instrumental in promoting women to management roles in both the Public Defender˜s Office and the Attorney General˜s Office, and she actively promotes women through her work on service clubs and her frequent speaking roles. Last year˜s winner was Rhonda Woodard, an attorney in private practice in Cheyenne.Wyo. coal mine named safest
WRIGHT, Wyo. — One of Wyoming˜s largest open-pit coal mines has been recognized by the federal government as the safest surface coal mine in the United States.
Kerr-McGee Coal Corp.˜s Jacobs Ranch Mine near Wright has received the 1996 "Sentinels of Safety Award" from the Mine Safety and Health Administration and the National Mining Association for more than 800,000 employee hours during 1996 without a lost-time accident. The Jacobs Ranch Mine is one of the largest in Wyoming˜s Powder River Basin and the world, producing nearly 25 million tons of coal in 1996.Chamber names board members
CHEYENNE — The Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce has added five Cheyenne business leaders to open seats on its board of directors. New board members are Noel Griffith Jr., an architect and owner of Noel Griffith Jr. & Associates; Terry LaHiff, owner of Wyoming Trophy and Engraving; Vicki Lewis, president and CEO of Puma Steel; Tom Segrave, a State Farm Insurance agent; and Rhonda Woodard, a senior partner in the law firm of Burke, Woodard & O˜Donnell.CHEYENNE — One of Cheyenne˜s successful entrepreneurs has a new name to reflect its growth and expanding services. DayWeather, Inc. is the new name for Agriweather, a five-year-old network that provides customized local weather forecasts from its president and chief broadcast meteorologist, Don W. Day, Jr.
As of November, Day˜s forecasts are heard on 42 stations in Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas, and the company also provides weather reports to media as far away as Montana and Texas from the Enterprise Center at Laramie County Community College.

CHEYENNE — Wyoming˜s economy isn˜t keeping pace with Northern Colorado˜s or other neighbors in the West, a fact that bothers some Wyomingites but pleases others who fear too much economic growth will destroy their "quality of life."

That fact has been underscored by a number of recent reports — including a respected statewide poll, a national ranking of Wyoming˜s economy, a national newspaper account, a report from the U.S. Census Bureau and most recently the Wyoming Steering Committee for Business Development˜s recommendation for a sweeping overhaul of state economic-development efforts.
"Nearly every economic indicator suggests that Wyoming˜s economy is falling behind…

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