Wyoming’s economy is changing.
Historically, the mineral-extraction industry has driven the state’s economy. It employs about 7.4 percent of the state and contributes about 52 percent of the state government’s total revenue – money that goes to schools, roads, parks and social services while helping to provide a favorable tax environment for other industries and entrepreneurs.
However, Wyoming’s extraction markets are subject to global boom-and-bust cycles, and the industry is changing.
The Wyoming Business Council has always worked to keep the state’s driving industries in motion while also adding supportive wheels to create an economic vehicle that can absorb the bumps in the road. That work has come with many successes.
“The Wyoming Business Council has played a crucial role in the growth of Wyoming’s economy over the years,” said Business Council CEO Shawn Reese. “We’ve seen significant success in several industries such as firearms manufacturing, data centers and the creative sector.”
In response to the shifting mineral-extraction economy and the enhanced need for economic diversification, the Wyoming Business Council has taken advantage of its nimble and flexible structure to create a refreshed strategy for itself. It includes a new purpose, vision and goals with key initiatives to be completed in 2019.
The new plan was approved and adopted by the Business Council’s board of directors at its May meeting.
“We knew we needed to adjust in response to things changing around us — the economy, the needs of the state right now,” said Megan Goetz, Chair of the Business Council Board of Directors. “And we knew we needed to do it collaboratively. We worked with our partners and heard from lots of stakeholders in this process and this incorporates input from them. We are doing what we need to do to diversify Wyoming’s economy, while meeting the needs of our stakeholders.”
The biggest change, explained Sarah Fitz-Gerald, the Business Council’s chief strategy officer, is a greater focus on adding value to the state’s three driving industries in order to activate other economic sectors and create an overall healthy economy in which businesses of all shapes and sizes can thrive.
“Wyoming has always been great at producing raw goods, and we can leverage that advantage,” Fitz-Gerald said. “This strategy emphasizes the need to look upstream and downstream of those raw goods in order to add value to them. For example, in addition to the mines and pipelines themselves, let’s recruit the headquarters of oil and gas companies to the state. Let’s create research- and knowledge-based opportunities so our highly skilled graduates can build careers right here.”
By adding value to core industries and leveraging them to activate others – such as healthcare, arts, technology and advanced manufacturing – the overall health of the state’s economy will improve and pave the way for all sectors to thrive.
The plan also lays out key initiatives for 2019, including evaluating the Business Council’s current programs and services, viewing each as an investment and adjusting them, if needed, to ensure diverse economic growth. That portfolio will be updated every two years and tied to the Business Council’s budget requests for future biennia.
"This is not business as usual for the Business Council,” said Fitz-Gerald. “It’s a renewed focus on economic diversification, on adding value to our core industries and leveraging them to activate new ones. It emphasizes the critical advantages — local economic development, partnerships, investments, services and expertise — that we must use to achieve diversification, and it delineates the steps we need to take immediately to get there.”
The refreshed strategy received widespread support at the Board of Directors meeting in May.
The next step in implementing the strategy is analyzing the Business Council’s programs and services with the support of local and state partners and determine what, if any, adjustments to make in order to be most efficient and productive with the state’s economic investments.
“In addition to helping us quantify our value to the state, I believe this refreshed strategy will provide additional focus and clear direction to the Business Council for many years to come,” Reese said.