PINEDALE – Harnessing Wyoming’s entrepreneurial talents and supporting them with legislation, grants, education and new technology were hot topics last week at the second meeting of a task force initiated by Gov. Matt Mead.
Gov. Mead’s The ENDOW Executive Council met at the Pinedale Library on Thursday and Friday, June 29-30. ENDOW stands for “Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming.”
The council consists of businesspeople from across the state – although no one from Sublette County sits on it. The group spent the day before in Jackson at startups, businesses and get-togethers to see how forward thinkers put together resources and assets.
Chair Bill Schilling, of the Wyoming Business Alliance, asked council members for their thoughts on Jackson Hole and later the group trying to link a coming “overflow” to Sublette County rather than Teton Valley, Idaho.
The members’ mainly commented that they hadn’t experienced Jackson Hole except as tourists and were surprised to find innovative partnerships and projects.
Pinedale Mayor Bob Jones addressed the council at its opening on June 29, telling the group the town and county need consistent, reliable and available broadband Internet.
“Wyoming lacks the resources and supports for new business growth,” commented member Jesus Rios. “How do we bring all the resources to the forefront across the state? Make connections with businesses? ENDOW can ensure all of these great resources are being communicated.”
He said Mayor Jones’ comments about the need for broadband Internet is an example of what’s needed.
“As we heard, there’s a fiber lines going through town,” Rios said. “The real challenge is distribution fibers – getting that fiber into homes and businesses.”
Most agreed that “quality of life” is very important to attract and keep Wyoming’s younger generations and that Jackson Hole in unique in doing that. Also, the Jackson Hole entrepreneurial overflow appears poised to moved to Driggs and Victor, Idaho.
“Rep. Albert Sommers hit it on the head,” said council member Steven Moldt, of Riverton. “It would be a shame if Jackson’s expansion benefited Idaho. I’d rather keep it in the state.”
Schilling said one quality-of-life factor that can draw or keep entrepreneurs in Wyoming is the beautiful landscape.
“The beauty of the scenery and the location … stimulates creativity because we don’t have the clutter we’d have in a larger urban setting,” he said.
However, barriers to economic diversity in the rest of the state are lack of jobs for spouses and opportunities for diversity, lack of quality and available housing at certain price points, lack of “community assets” such as entertainment and “curb appeal,” according to Shawn Reese, Wyoming Business Council (WBC) CEO.
He pointed to WBC’s Business Ready Community program as “a very effective approach with results across the state” – although that program bas limited funds right now for community enhancements with creating new jobs a priority.
The WBC is working on air service needs, broadband and housing issues “to bring new voices and solutions,” he said.
The meeting continued through the rest of Thursday and Friday with large and very small group discussions brainstorming possible ways to coordinate and communicate statewide for better partnerships.
For more on the ENDOW meeting in Pinedale, see the Friday, July 7 Pinedale Roundup.