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 June 18, 1999

Sierra Trading Post thrives in Cheyenne

CHEYENNE — Business owners prospecting for new building sites are often surprised by the growth-friendly opportunities that lie at the northern tip of the Front Range in Cheyenne, Wyo.

A city perhaps best-known for its frontier character, wild-west rodeos and rugged individualism, Cheyenne is now starting to attract a new breed of pioneer. Entrepreneurs in pursuit of favorable business climates are finding the “weather” just fine — readily tapping into the city’s ample supply of affordable land, accommodating banks, low-cost utilities and labor, and one of the best perks of all: no state income tax.

One of these pioneers is Keith Richardson, founder and president of Sierra Trading Post Inc., a successful mail-order business and retail outlet that sells name-brand outdoor clothing and equipment at savings of 35 percent to 70 percent.

Richardson says the idea for his company came to him back in Reno, Nev., when he was between jobs and praying hard about what to do next. With more resolve than money, he started the business in February 1986, with one employee — himself — and a modest 500 square feet of space.

Sierra Trading Post took off like gangbusters and outgrew three consecutive lease sites in less than five years. Needless to say, the leasing option quickly became impractical. For one thing, all leasehold improvements had to be abandoned each time the company moved. For another, Richardson always believed that companies that owned their own property stood a better chance of riding out times.

Unfortunately, real estate was very expensive in and around Reno. And when it came to the local business climate, Nevada favored large casinos over small entrepreneurs.

In the final analysis, Richardson opted to keep operating his profitable Nevada retail outlet, but went prospecting for more hospitable out-west building sites to accommodate his new fulfillment center and outlet store.

“Wyoming turned out to be the only western state with a lower cost of doing business than Nevada,” he said.

The state offers substantially lower worker’s compensation fees and health insurance premiums, less-expensive utilities, lower labor costs, a lower cost of living, no income tax and is also protected by the right-to-work law. Also, because Cheyenne itself is strategically located at the intersection of Interstate 25 and Interstate 80, it is a cost-effective distribution point.

While cost savings were important, there were other factors that influenced Richardson’s decision to move. Lifestyle was a significant one. He liked Cheyenne’s laid-back atmosphere, family-oriented community, outdoor-sport opportunities, and even its wonderfully dramatic weather. From a business perspective, though, he was particularly inspired by Jack Crews, president of a local economic development organization known as LEADS.

“Jack made the business of moving here much easier than it might have been, and he continues to smooth the way as we grow.” Richardson said.

Sierra Trading Post was the first company to move into the Cheyenne Business Parkway, a project spearheaded by LEADS.

“I couldn’t believe how smoothly everything went,” Richardson said. “Our building was up and ready for business in just five and a half months. I’ve seen it take that long just to get a building permit in other cities.”

Since moving to Cheyenne in 1992, Sierra Trading Post has experienced a five-fold increase in sales, and an even greater increase in profits. The company now employs 250 and is in the midst of its third major expansion. By August 1999, the warehouse and retail store will occupy approximately 150,000 square feet of space to accommodate an even wider selection of products.

“This site has turned out to be a perfect location for business,” Richardson said. “Not only are catalog orders up, but visits to our outlet store have been increasing, too. What really surprised us, though, was the explosive growth of Web-based orders when we brought e-commerce online — a feat made possible by Cheyenne’s progressive communications infrastructure. It is advancements like these,” he added, “that help to dispel notions that Cheyenne is just a cowboy town. On the contrary, we think it’s a great place for business to thrive.”

CHEYENNE — Business owners prospecting for new building sites are often surprised by the growth-friendly opportunities that lie at the northern tip of the Front Range in Cheyenne, Wyo.

A city perhaps best-known for its frontier character, wild-west rodeos and rugged individualism, Cheyenne is now starting to attract a new breed of pioneer. Entrepreneurs in pursuit of favorable business climates are finding the “weather” just fine — readily tapping into the city’s ample supply of affordable land, accommodating banks, low-cost utilities and labor, and one of the best perks of all: no state income tax.

One of these pioneers is Keith…

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