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ARCHIVED  January 1, 1998

Leading economic indicators

Cheyenne seeks to duplicate economic successes of 1997

Dennis E. Curran

Business Report Wyoming Bureau

CHEYENNE Wyoming’s economy has a long way to go to catch the rapidly growing Northern Front Range of Colorado, but Cheyenne hopes to step up the pace if it can put together another year like last year.
Buoyed by ongoing expansions of existing industries, new arrivals to the community and a strong retail sector, Cheyenne enters the new year poised for economic growth.
"We would love to duplicate 1997 — it was a fantastic year for us and a great standard to try to meet, and I think we˜ve got some excellent opportunity to do that," said Jack Crews, president of Cheyenne and Laramie County˜s economic development corporation, Cheyenne LEADS.
"What gives me encouragement is that every company that has moved to Cheyenne has expanded once they˜ve gotten here, and I expect that trend to continue, so that in itself will be a very significant impact on our economy," Crews said. "And then we˜ve got some good prospects that we˜re currently working, and hopefully in 1998 we˜ll come to closure on one or more of the deals.
"We think we can certainly qualify for specific companies with our low cost of doing business overall, and then with the activity on the Front Range, we˜re bound to benefit from that, and as a matter of fact we consider ourselves part of it," he added.
Cheyenne˜s successes in 1997 include the opening of VAE Nortrak of Cheyenne, the third North American railroad-track manufacturing plant of an international leader, and construction in LEADS˜ Cheyenne Business Parkway of a new sales and distribution center for computer software giant Quark Inc., and a 150,000-square-foot Western distribution center for Rex Stores Inc., of Ohio.
Equally important is an ongoing major expansion at EchoStar Communications˜ direct TV satellite-uplink facility in the Business Parkway. EchoStar already is Cheyenne˜s top property taxpayer, and when the expansion is completed in 1998, the Colorado-based company will have $100 million invested in its Cheyenne facility and 150 employees.
Other 1997 developments included relocation of Kabo Unlimited from Jackson to the former BETZ Laboratories chemical plant in the Business Parkway and continued growth at Sierra Trading Post, a primarily mail-order catalog store that has tripled its square footage and more than tripled its employees to 200 since expanding to Cheyenne in 1992.
In fact, Crews noted, eight businesses recruited by LEADS over the past eight years have grown from about 600 employees to almost 1,100, not counting REX or EchoStar˜s expansion.
Meanwhile, Cheyenne˜s retail economy appears to be stronger than most other sectors and the community˜s economy as a whole, said Dick O˜Gara, director of the Center for Economic and Business Data at Laramie County Community College. O˜Gara has been tracking new data that more accurately measure retail strength, and he noted that retail sales taxes were running 10 percent ahead of last year for the first six months of 1997.
But despite the new jobs and retail boom, Crews and LEADS are not resting on their laurels and are in the midst of a new campaign to raise money for renewed economic-development efforts. Most measurements show Cheyenne˜s economy growing only about 1 percent the past year, far slower than the Front Range.
Elsewhere in Wyoming, the outlook is less rosy, for the Cowboy State˜s economy has been stagnant the past year and is likely to continue to lag behind neighboring states in 1998, despite new efforts to jump-start it.
"Nearly every economic indicator suggests that Wyoming˜s economy is falling behind the region and nation," concluded the Wyoming Steering Committee for Business Development, a public-private group that has recommended privatizing state economic-development efforts.
Among those indicators are a decline in high-paying jobs and per capita income, rankings last or near last in percentage of high-tech and manufacturing jobs, a "brain drain" of educated young people, a lack of diversification in the economy and perhaps most telling, an actual decline in total jobs last year.
"Reversing this trend will not be easy," the committee concluded. "Wyoming, with all its great potential, has been left behind."

Cheyenne seeks to duplicate economic successes of 1997

Dennis E. Curran

Business Report Wyoming Bureau

CHEYENNE Wyoming’s economy has a long way to go to catch the rapidly growing Northern Front Range of Colorado, but Cheyenne hopes to step up the pace if it can put together another year like last year.
Buoyed by ongoing expansions of existing industries, new arrivals to the community and a strong retail sector, Cheyenne enters the new year poised for economic growth.
"We would love to duplicate 1997 — it was a fantastic year for us and a great standard to try to meet, and I…

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