Economy

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In another sign that Wyoming’s economy is improving, statewide inflation increased by just over two percent in the fourth quarter of 2017.

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Mountain West states like Montana, Colorado and Utah are seeing unprecedented population growth right now. In fact, Idaho is the fastest growing state in the nation. But that’s not the case in Wyoming where the population is shrinking. 

 

Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources Facebook page

The ENDOW initiative is Wyoming’s latest attempt to diversify its economy. For author Samuel Western shaping the state's future, requires an examination of how Wyoming imagines its past. Western will explore this idea and lead a discussion at the University of Wyoming on April 5. 

Idaho and Colorado saw some of the nation's leading growth in wages this past year. But other western states, including Montana and Wyoming, lagged behind according to the latest report from the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Screen shot from March 21-23, 2018 UW Board of Trustees' Report

A new effort at the University of Wyoming is designed to turn academic research into businesses. The creation of the Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship got a vote of approval from the UW board of trustees last week.

Bob Beck


The Wyoming Legislature spent roughly $40 million on a variety of economic development initiatives aimed at creating jobs and diversifying the economy. Some left the session very excited about what they did while others were anxious.

Wyoming Legislature Senator Eli Bebout
Bob Beck

The Wyoming Legislature still has work to do. Despite working for 20 days the House and Senate will reconvene later this week to hopefully reach a compromise on one bill that funds building projects and another that trims school funding. 

People listen to late night proceedings in the Wyoming House of Representatives
Bob Beck

While budget cutting and education may have been in the headlines, the Wyoming legislature did pass a number of economic development measures this legislative session. Wyoming Public Radio's Bob Beck speaks with Jerimiah Rieman who is the Governor's Director of Economic Diversification Strategy and Initiatives.  

http://legisweb.state.wy.us/2018/billreference/BillReference.aspx?type=ALL

Despite strong concern over the appropriateness of spending state money to partner with an airline, the Wyoming House of Representatives approved a bill that is intended to stabilize air service in the state. The plan is to set aside $15 million to partner with an air carrier for 10 years. Supporters say it should reduce current costs that the state pays airlines and should improve air service, which they say is critical for economic development. 

Airman 1st Class Alexis Visser, 90th Munitions Squadron, and Senior Airman Rachel Silverberg, 90th Force Support Squadron, hike the Hidden Falls trail in Grand Teton National Park, Wyo., July 3, 2015.
Credit U.S. Air Force photo by Lan Kim

The federal government conducted its first economic analysis on outdoor recreation. It has a bigger impact on the country’s GDP than previously thought.

The new study by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis showed that outdoor recreation accounted for two percent of the entire U.S. economy in 2016. 

Laramie Range where it borders Medicine Bow National Forest
Robert Kirkwood

Five minutes from downtown Laramie, Melanie Arnett unlocks a gate. She pulls a truck through and we’re inside the 5,500-acre parcel of land that Laramie folks have been drooling to explore for years. I’m feeling pretty smug about my VIP pass.

“Right now, we’re looking right at Pilot Peak,” says Melanie Arnett, who was recently hired to serve as the Pilot Hill Land Project’s director. A local businessman, John Pope with Blue Sky Group, volunteered to pay her salary for now.

Airplane
CREDIT "ALLEGIANT AIR" BY EDDIE MALONEY FROM WIKIMEDIA COMMONS IS LICENSED UNDER CC BY 2.0

As a small rural state, Wyoming isn’t a huge player in commercial air service but many want to change that. Currently, a bill working its way through the legislature proposes a new subsidy program that could create more reliable air service.  

Cade Maestas is a co-founder of an outdoor equipment company in Lander. Not the most convenient location for an international company since Lander isn’t close to any interstate and the closest airport, Riverton Regional Airport, hasn’t always been reliable. 

Senate President Eli Bebout Speaks To Full Senate
Cooper McKim

It’s the third of four weeks in the 2018 budget session. With the current revenue crunch, many bills have revolved around spurring new revenue, finding new sources, or cutting back on spending. And for energy, it’s no different. The surviving bills also come down to money. Thirteen bills arose related to energy, with only three still moving through the system. There are others that relate, but are not directly tied to energy.

F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE

Wyoming’s museums are a big contributor to the state economy. In fact, Wyoming relies on the sector more than most states, fourth most in the country according to a recent study by American Alliance Of Museums in conjunction with Ox, ord Economics. Washington D.C., Alaska and Hawaii are the most reliant states. The study shows that these states’ economies rely heavily on the museum industry. This was measured by a location quotient or L.Q.

Logo is courtesy of the Wyoming Blockchain Coalition

You may have heard a little about Blockchain, but if some people in Wyoming have their way, you will learn a lot about it. Because according to these experts, legislation that Wyoming lawmakers are considering this year could open the floodgates for Blockchain businesses. Some lawmakers are comparing it to the internet boom of the 1990’s and say it could completely change Wyoming’s economic future. 

Bob Beck

This week, after months of discussion, a legislative committee defeated a number of tax increase measures. The Joint Revenue Committee was hoping to find money to pay for a revenue shortfall that some thought could reach a billion dollars. Then a funny thing happened over the summer, the revenue picture improved just enough that taxes could be avoided. 

Pioneer Cunningham Ranch Historic Cabin Wyoming
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Organizations in the region are encouraging ranchers and farmers to think ahead about how to pass their land on to the next generation so the way of life doesn’t disappear. As property values outpace the potential revenue from agriculture, it’s harder for families to pass down their land or even sell it to another rancher. 

Weatherby Inc.

Sheridan has attracted a firearms manufacturer that is expected to provide between 70 and 90 jobs.  Weatherby Inc. announced Tuesday that it will relocate its manufacturing operations to Sheridan after over 70 years in California. 

Weatherby said it is coming to Sheridan because of its available workforce and Wyoming’s business-friendly environment. Sheridan City Administrator Mark Collins said the community is the site of a number of manufacturing companies, and he thinks that helped attract their business.

Kamila Kudelska

Northwest College in Powell hosted the first Wyoming Agriculture Diversification Summit this week. The two-day conference invited agriculture business leaders from around the country to present innovative ideas to state producers and business sponsors.

David Stover, the owner of a consulting firm on innovation and strategy, said the key to innovation is to understand what assets and competencies already exist. He said two assets stand out in Wyoming, including access to water.

WyoTech

For over 50 years, students from Wyoming and across the country have come to Laramie to learn automotive skills. But on November 8, the Zenith Education Group, which owns colleges across the country announced plans to close 21 campuses, including WyoTech.

Tech Jobs Tour

This Tuesday, November 7, an event in Cheyenne called Tech Jobs Tour will aim to help diverse and non-traditional workers find jobs in the local tech industry.

Jackson Hole's annual SHIFT Festival brings together the outdoor recreation industry and conservationists. This year, the festival is focusing on making the case for how conservation can be good for business. Gov. Matt Mead's Policy Advisor Nephi Cole attended SHIFT to release a new report that he says will guide the state in how to enhance outdoor recreation in Wyoming.

Wyoming Economic Analysis Division

According to the most recent cost of living index report, Wyoming experienced a 1.1 percent rate of inflation and saw the cost of living rise slightly in the second quarter of 2017 compared to the previous year. 

The report is published biannually and measures six consumer spending categories, including apparel, food, medical, transportation, housing, and recreation & personal care.

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A survey of rural bankers in ten Great Plains states says their biggest worry in the coming year is farm and ranch foreclosures.

Creighton University economist Ernie Goss said the problem is that beef and other agriculture commodity prices continue to be so low and that could lead to a fairly sharp upturn in foreclosures in 2018. Goss said Wyoming has a double whammy since energy prices continue to be sluggish, too. He said that in turn would hurt rural banks.

Madelyn Beck / Inside Energy

Laramie sees a lot of wind, but it’s about to see a lot more wind politics. The University of Wyoming’s Center for Energy Economy and Public Policy and the Ruckelshaus Institute are hosting a wind conference next week called Wyoming’s Wind Energy Future.

Bob Beck

Cities and towns are terrified about their financial future especially when it comes to having a stable source of revenue. Years ago legislators removed direct funding to local governments, preferring instead to fund them on a bi-annual basis from the state general fund. But Lawmakers have been engaged in budget cuts and communities in particular fear they will lose their general fund money. One solution is to have the ability to raise their own revenue.

Bob Beck

  

On Tuesday, City Council members and others will converge on the legislature’s Joint Revenue Committee to suggest ways that communities could raise more money for themselves.

Lawmakers are worried about maintaining local government funding due to the downturn in the energy economy and because of education funding needs. Wyoming Association of Municipalities Director Rick Kaysen joins us to say that if local governments could raise more money internally, it could address budget uncertainty. 

ENDOW, Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming, logo
ENDOW

The state’s economic diversification group, or ENDOW, has submitted its first report to Governor Mead and the state legislature. It attempts to establish a baseline on the status of Wyoming's economy. The report outlines workforce data, state-by-state comparisons, and trends in different sectors.

Wyoming Legislature

Early this summer lawmakers were looking at a massive shortfall in education funding and overall revenue. That pushed lawmakers into a lengthy discussion about possible tax hikes. The idea was to hold a number of hearings over the summer on a variety of proposals and then pass bills that would raise $100 million, $200 million and $300 million. But a funny thing happened on the way to passing tax legislation the state’s revenue picture improved.

treasurer.state.wy.us

One reason some lawmakers have backed off on their support of tax increases is that Wyoming is making a lot of money from investments.

Unrealized gains sit around $900 million and even the energy industry has had a slight uptick.

State Treasurer Mark Gordon says that it’s true, things are good. But he also tells Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck that lawmakers should be careful about using investment money versus a more stable source of revenue. 

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