ARCHIVED  February 1, 1997

Economic development tops Wyo. governor’s list Geringer proposes initatives to boost vitality

CHEYENNE – Pledging to keep economic development the highest priority, Wyoming Gov. Jim Geringer wants to renew the state’s economic-development and diversification efforts through a new four-pronged approach that emphasizes community solutions and public-private partnerships.
In his recent State of the State Address, Geringer noted that while eight of the 10 fastest-growing states are in the West, Wyoming is “not among the fast burners.” But to Geringer and many other leaders in the Cowboy State, that’s not necessarily bad news.
“I take that as basically good news,” he said in his speech. “We would rather see the growth in a way we can control and lead, but it’s only a matter of time before the impact hits us.”
Pointing specifically to growth along Colorado’s Front Range and Utah’s Wasatch Front, Geringer said that Wyoming people want quality jobs and opportunities for their children, “but we want it to be compatible with our quality of life.”
“I hear a message,” he added. “Let’s grow, but let’s grow economically and not just the population. And let’s grow on our terms.”
Wyoming’s economy historically has been based on minerals, tourism and agriculture, but Geringer said the state now needs diversification, and he cited technology-based companies, light manufacturers and businesses and professions that take advantage of higher education as the way to go.
To accomplish that goal, he is proposing a four-step effort:
n Upgrade the quality of Wyoming’s work force that will allow businesses to keep their workers and businesses up to date. Geringer supports a bill that would create a new fund for worker training by redirecting interest earned on federal payroll tax deposits and tapping part of the savings in workers’ compensation premiums. Employers could apply for money from the fund for training, and there would be no increase in taxes or fees.
The governor also hailed innovative public-private efforts, such as the Wyoming Microsoft Program, a partnership between the nation’s dominant computer software company and 11 Wyoming high schools and Central Wyoming College to teach students the skills needed to be certified Microsoft technicians. Or a program established by Northwest College and Powell High School and involving 16 smaller high schools to train students in graphics and visual communications.
n Community-based definitions of success and community involvement in designing solutions. Geringer notes that many communities say they want only certain types of new business development, but there’s often lack of definition or focus. Each community must determine what it wants and what it can attain and then devise ways to meet its goals, he said.
Indeed, community involvement and community focus was a strong theme throughout Geringer’s speech, as he noted that local decisions are the key not only to successful economic development but education, welfare reform and other issues.
n Development of a state business plan involving state leaders and successful businesses. Geringer noted that a number of successful businesses in Wyoming have pledged $40,000 to help develop a state business plan, and Geringer is seeking legislative support to match that amount. The planning process would be overseen by a new Governor’s Business Council – the latest attempt to bring together the various boards and committees involved in what has often been a fragmented approach to economic development.
The proposed state business plan is an outgrowth of an economic-development retreat for local, state and private interests organized by the governor and the Wyoming Heritage Society last December. That retreat painted a relatively downbeat picture of Wyoming’s economy as being relatively flat and stagnant in relation to neighboring states, with some indications of actual decline, but it sparked renewed interest in trying to build solid economic growth compatible with Wyoming’s goals.
n A focus on quality of life, including protection of natural resources, maintaining accessible open spaces and a healthy environment and increasing access to development decisions.
“Wyoming’s economy depends on our natural resources, including development of those resources. Our quality of life depends on our open spaces, scenic lands and healthy environment,” Geringer said. “As the demands for both resource development and resource protection grow, it is more and more difficult to maintain the balance. Yet Wyoming people can create innovative solutions through collaborative processes.”
Geringer has organized a number of “partnership” conferences designed to bring together public and private entities to forge new working relationships to tackle common problems and develop solutions. But he also emphasized a special need for a better working relationship between state interests – public and private – and the federal government, which controls half of Wyoming’s 98,000 acres, lands which include much of the state’s mineral wealth, tourist attractions and agricultural base.
“Above all, we must have access to the decision-making process,” Geringer said. “Decisions made by the federal government impact our communities and our economy.”ÿ

CHEYENNE – Pledging to keep economic development the highest priority, Wyoming Gov. Jim Geringer wants to renew the state’s economic-development and diversification efforts through a new four-pronged approach that emphasizes community solutions and public-private partnerships.
In his recent State of the State Address, Geringer noted that while eight of the 10 fastest-growing states are in the West, Wyoming is “not among the fast burners.” But to Geringer and many other leaders in the Cowboy State, that’s not necessarily bad news.
“I take that as basically good news,” he said in his speech. “We would rather see the growth…

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