Guest column - Connecting counties will be a good thing


There have been rumblings throughout the county over the last several months regarding a START bus transporting residents and workers between Sublette and Teton counties.

The project, dubbed “Connect Sublette/Teton” by a small committee of local business representatives, consists of two parts. The first is to promote Sublette County in Teton County as a viable living option, and the second is to pursue some form of public transportation between the two counties.

The committee has been working on this project for a year now and while the going is slow, the project is feasible. It’s no secret that Teton County is experiencing a housing crisis and at the same token, there’s a lot of buzz around Sublette County about seeking greater economic diversity. This project is truly complimentary for both counties and has the potential to resolve some major issues.

There’s no denying that Sublette and Teton counties are already bound in many ways. Sublette residents travel to Jackson frequently to fly out of the airport, grocery shop, attend medical appointments and recreate. Teton County residents travel to Sublette primarily to recreate on the rivers and in the mountains. Sublette’s tourism economy is largely dependent on travelers coming from and going to Jackson and the national parks. According to 2015 data from the Wyoming Economic Analysis Division, there were 225 people already commuting for work between the two counties.

As Sublette faces trying economic times due to decreased activity and revenues from the energy industry, it’s time we pursue a long-term strategy. What’s not to like about dollars made in Teton County being spent in Sublette County in the evenings and on weekends? We need to grow our population and customer base to support local business and community facilities. We need to move real estate and fill rental properties, increase property and sales tax collections to fill government coffers, increase enrollment in our school districts, increase the livability of Sublette County through public transportation, and cultivate new entrepreneurial endeavors. This can all be accomplished by promoting our community to Teton County elected officials, prominent community groups and large employers.

I suspect this project will be met with some resistance from local residents as there seems to be an inherent fear of morphing into our neighboring county to the northwest. The way I see it, we need not waste our energies on comparing ourselves but rather embrace the opportunity to work together toward greater overall success.

The fact that we do not have two world famous national parks, nor a destination ski resort right outside our back door, sets us apart entirely. Sublette can be proud of its world-class outdoor opportunities, state-of-the art community facilities, school districts, unique western heritage and vibrant local life, all of which will only make us more attractive to future opportunity, diversity and growth.

Wyoming is a boom/bust state; it always has been. It’s time to change the paradigm. We need to learn from our past to prepare for our future. Growth and sustainability are key. A successful future for Sublette County lies in our hands and can be accomplished through proactive planning and capitalizing on the right economic opportunities. Connect Sublette/Teton is just that!

We’ll be discussing this topic for Mugs & Mornings on Friday, May 19, at 7 a.m. The discussion will be hosted by Edward Jones financial advisor Farrah Rhea in Pinedale at 621 S. Pine St., Suite B. The public is encouraged to attend and take part in this community conversation.

 

Rachel Grimes is the executive director of the Sublette County Chamber of Commerce.

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