February 5, 2021

Wood: Weld County, Wyoming? How about Cheyenne, Colorado, instead?

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon sparked a new border war of sorts, Monday, when he seemingly welcomed efforts by some disgruntled Weld County residents to secede from Colorado and join Wyoming instead.

The effort, reminiscent of an effort to create a new state — “North Colorado” — a few years ago, is led by a group with a Facebook page titled “Weld County, WY” and a website, www.weldcountywy.com. The effort has been prompted by perceived hostility to Weld County’s oil-and-gas industry by Colorado legislators, as well as other issues.

“We would love that,” Gordon told KOA radio. “From time to time states have said, ‘Gosh, we like what Wyoming is doing,’ and we’d be happy.”

The Quixotic effort would require approval from the Colorado and Wyoming legislatures, as well as Congress, and we suspect that Gordon and other proponents are tilting at some of the windmills that line the Colorado-Wyoming border.

But Gordon’s comments prompted a swift retort by Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, who posted on Facebook, “Hands off Weld County, Governor Mark Gordon. Weld County is a thriving part of Colorado and Weld County residents are proud to be part of our great state. I do hear from so many Cheyenne residents, on the other hand, that they are culturally, economically and socially more connected to Colorado than Wyoming …”

That last comment from Polis provides the spark of a counter strategy for Colorado to employ. Rather than playing defense to Gordon’s designs on Weld County, Colorado should go on the offensive by annexing Cheyenne — and Laramie, too, for good measure.

Cheyenne has long considered itself the northern edge of the Front Range. Commuting to and from Northern Colorado has increased markedly in recent years, and Cheyenne-based companies already have looked to NoCo for expansion, including Blue Federal Credit Union; McGee Hearne & Paiz LLP accounting firm; and various commercial banks.

Cheyenne boasts two major interstates and railroad hubs that would be assets to Colorado, and when the National Center for Atmospheric Research was seeking locations for a new supercomputing center, it didn’t locate it with its other major operations in Boulder but instead chose Cheyenne.

And Boulder has nothing on Cheyenne when it comes to a major outdoor retailer. Sierra Trading Post Inc. is headquartered in Cheyenne, and a Cheyenne annexed to Colorado undoubtedly would create synergies with Boulder’s outdoor sector.

Distribution is a major industry for Cheyenne, with a Walmart Distribution Center as one example, similar to an operation in Loveland.

And let’s not forget The Den Gentlemen’s Club, located on U.S. Highway 85 on the Colorado side of the border, a major attraction for some Cheyenne residents.

Even U.S. Highway 85 itself is known as the South Greeley Highway up north. Talk about destiny!

Laramie, too, offers reasons for annexation. As home to the University of Wyoming — we’d have to do something about that name — the city has a longstanding rivalry with Fort Collins and Colorado State University.

Laramie also has developed a strong but often-overlooked tech industry, with dozens of companies engaged in software development, R&D and tech manufacturing, many of which spun out of the university. 

Cheyenne is located in Laramie County, and Laramie is located in Albany County. The two together would add about 140,000 people to Colorado’s population. Colorado, after the 2020 census, could land another Congressional seat, and the numbers from Cheyenne and Laramie could help it increase its congressional delegation even more by the 2030 census. (Wyoming, meanwhile, would not lose its single representative.)

Of course, Cheyenne is the state capital, and we might have to negotiate a Vatican City type of arrangement to provide for an enclave. But that’s an easily surmountable challenge.

Annexation of Cheyenne and Laramie into Colorado might prompt some heartburn for Magpul Industries, the manufacturer of firearms accessories that relocated from Erie, Colorado, to Cheyenne back in 2014 in protest over new Colorado gun laws. But Magpul has shown a willingness to move before, and doubtless could again.

Yes, the more I think about it, the more I like this idea. Cheyenne and Laramie, Colorado, have a nice ring to them. I’ll even agree to add a 307 area code for our phone lines.

Christopher Wood can be reached at 970-232-3133, 303-630-1942 or cwood@bizwest.com.

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