[copperpress-advertserve-ad-reload zone="3"]
ARCHIVED  June 18, 1999

Wyoming Business Council lays groundwork

CHEYENNE — The new Wyoming Business Council is on a roll, and its chief executive officer predicts there’s more to come.

The state’s 11-month-old, run-like-a-business economic-development arm is busy forming partnerships or “alliances” with local economic-development groups, helping Wyoming companies facilitate expansions and already brokering deals to bring new businesses into the state, such as Great Lakes Aviation.

Statewide employment is up, especially in manufacturing. So is per capita personal income, and there’s a renewed spirit of optimism in the Cowboy State after more than a decade of lagging behind the rest of the West.

“We’re still only about 25 percent into the full capabilities of the council,´ said John Reardon, the council’s CEO. “But at 25 percent, we’re probably double the capabilities of the organizations that were stand-alone before as individual units.

“By combining those groups under one umbrella and then putting into place more-sophisticated partnerships, our horsepower substantially increased, and we’re already seeing results from that,” Reardon added. “But we’re not all the way down the road yet. We’ve got a lot more to do.”

The Business Council was created by the 1998 Wyoming Legislature and began operating the state’s economic-development programs last July, with a different concept of operating like a business corporation rather than a governmental agency.

The Business Council is a quasi-public, quasi-private undertaking that spends public funds ($23 million in the 1999-2000 budget biennium) but functions like a private corporation, with at-will employees, a corporate structure and measurable performance goals.

The 15-member council or board of directors consists of business executives from around the state (and two with Wyoming ties who live outside the state). It is co-chaired by Gov. Jim Geringer and Dave Crum, a Casper electronics company president.

The new council was launched with exceptionally high expectations but according to Geringer, got off to a somewhat “rocky” start and was “slower getting going than could have been.”

“It is doing what it’s expected to do now,” the governor emphasized. “It’s providing the business leads, making the contacts, hiring the acknowledged experts in those areas that need to be developed and then expediting what needs to be done so that business can move forward.”

Reardon, CEO since last December, agreed it might have taken the council longer to get its formal structure in place than council members wanted, but in the meantime, they and the governor rolled up their sleeves and worked as staff members.

“So the full structure of the Business Council might not have been in place, but the motor was running,” Reardon said.

The council’s strategic-plan goals are to diversify and strengthen the state’s overall economy, including helping existing business and industry advance while promoting growth in the manufacturing and technology sectors.

It also hopes to provide sustainable development that will break the state’s historic boom-and-bust cycles. Its goal is to have all sectors of the state’s economy actively growing, with job growth and per capita income that meets or exceeds the national averages. And so far it appears to be moving toward those goals.

From the council’s new headquarters in a renovated historic Cheyenne hotel, Reardon sweeps his hand across an imaginary map of Wyoming, ticking off new expansions or developments in community after community, some under construction and others still in the negotiating stages.

He is especially pleased that Wyoming’s small manufacturing sector led the recovery in personal income and new job creation in the state in the quarter ending in January.

Reardon, an experienced economic-development officer from Denver, also expressed pleasure at the success of the team concept that heavily involves local communities.

“The communities can participate to the level that they want to be successful,” Reardon stressed. “They set all those criteria themselves. Our job is to create options ä and create that opportunity.

“The Business Council is a statewide platform that people stand on to achieve a certain end and use the tools that are available,” he added. “It in itself is not a beginning and an end. It just is the platform we’ve created, and we’ve put these tools on it and gathered teams on it to use those tools and accomplish the job.

“We’ve got a lot of things shaken out, we’ve got a lot of teams working together, a lot of the visions are maturing into actualities ä” he said. “But the bottom line still comes down to those two control points — the net gains in job creation across the state and how that job creation affects the upward movement of personal income ä Those are the key underlying pieces of the benchmarking that the Legislature put in place.”

To accomplish its goals, the council has assembled a staff from the old existing economic-development entities as well as new people. Its current staff of 53 — 35 in Cheyenne — is less than the 90 originally projected.

Increasingly, the council is looking to expand its productivity and work force by forming partnerships and strategic alliances with local economic developers, such as the Wyoming Economic Development Association and the Wyoming Chamber of Commerce Executives, and various business and industry groups, such as bankers, agricultural groups and energy groups.

Its first alliance was with WEDA, which is composed of local economic-development officials. It creates a 36-member team to help with business recruiting, instead of a three-member council team, and Council co-chair Crum said it will be a key to bringing a statewide business-development network together.

Eventually, the Business Council envisions at least a dozen major alliances. Reardon emphasized that alliance agreements “are not just nice pieces of paper.” Each carries specific responsibilities and a commitment of local resources, he said.

“You’re talking about a multiplier effect that’s quite substantial, and that’s the way you move a whole state economy, rather than just doing a piece here and there,” he said.

Looking ahead, Reardon predicted the next three years should bring “a pretty steady climb” and “fairly substantial gains” in job creation, total number of jobs, and personal income.

After that, he said, Wyoming’s future will be increasingly tied to its abundant lands, natural beauty and quality of life, and a key will be positive growth management that will enable continued economic growth while maintaining the state’s quality of life.

“Wyoming is going to become an attractive area that’s going to draw people from all over the nation, as people get to the point that they can work any place, anytime,” Reardon said. “That’s going to bring more and more people to Wyoming.”

CHEYENNE — The new Wyoming Business Council is on a roll, and its chief executive officer predicts there’s more to come.

The state’s 11-month-old, run-like-a-business economic-development arm is busy forming partnerships or “alliances” with local economic-development groups, helping Wyoming companies facilitate expansions and already brokering deals to bring new businesses into the state, such as Great Lakes Aviation.

Statewide employment is up, especially in manufacturing. So is per capita personal income, and there’s a renewed spirit of optimism in the Cowboy State after more than a decade of lagging behind the rest of the West.

“We’re still only about 25 percent into the…

[copperpress-advertserve-ad-reload zone="3"]

Related Content

[copperpress-advertserve-ad-interstitial zone="30"]