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Development and diversification: WIP works to improve economic prosperity

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

As the Wyoming Innovation Partnership (WIP) continues to develop Wyoming’s strategy for economic development and diversification, leaders from around the state heard updates from panel experts at the 2023 Governor’s Business Forum held at the University of Wyoming’s (UW) Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center in Laramie on Nov 14. 

The panel included Wyoming Medical Center Chief Executive Officer Lance Porter, UW President Ed Seidel, Western Wyoming Community College President Dr. Kim Dale and Eastern Wyoming College President Dr. Jeffry Hawes, who updated forum attendees on progress made and the future of WIP. 

What is WIP?

WIP was created at the request of Gov. Mark Gordon in 2021 to modernize and focus Wyoming’s efforts to develop a resilient workforce and economy. 

The effort aims to better align Wyoming’s economic development agenda by increasing collaborations between state entities and local partners. 

The expert panel discussed how essential partnerships between UW, state community colleges, the Wyoming Business Council and the Department of Workforce Services are emphasizing the priority to develop innovative solutions, which will support and enhance Wyoming’s economy, workforce and sources of revenue.

WIP measures the success of Wyoming-based businesses as a direct or indirect outcome of the program. It also tracks wage increases and the number of individuals who participate in the program and/or any of its activities. 

Enhancing the workforce

“There are key components the program is focusing on currently and for the future,” Seidel noted. “These areas include energy, entrepreneurship, healthcare, agriculture, manufacturing, tourism and hospitality and technology.”

The program can provide opportunities for Wyoming residents to boost their incomes by receiving training and earning degrees in high-growth fields. In April of 2023, Gordon awarded $26 million in total funding to advance the WIP program, including funds for agriculture proposals such as precision agriculture, ranch management and controlled environment agriculture.

Another area of opportunity is a software development program offered at Sheridan College, which has partnered with UW. Now, the program’s curriculum has expanded to include collaborations with three other state community colleges.

“WIP focuses on workforce development in high-demand industries, both statewide and regionally, including nursing and other healthcare-related programs,” Porter added. “While a nursing shortage existed before, the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the issue. With increased workloads and decreased staffing levels, it led to nurses burning out.”

In 2022, the American Hospital Association reported an estimated half a million nurses left the field by the end of the year, bringing the total shortage of nurses to 1.1 million.

“How do we fill this gap and how do we recruit individuals to fill nursing positions and other healthcare jobs, such as lab or radiology technicians?” Porter asked. “We collaborate with local community colleges to recruit students, and we have to get more individuals interested in the healthcare industry through health fairs.”

He continued, “Through a partnership with Casper Community College, we held a Health Science Career Clinic for community members who are looking to improve their employment or even switch careers to a hands-on learning event.”

“Another benefit of the WIP program is being able to deliver education to enhance the workforce quickly, being able to move them from point A to B in a timely fashion and meeting industry demands,” Hawes said. 

“We have built new programs to meet the demands of our rural communities, which are designed to provide the skills necessary to acquire professional level positions for many in-demand occupations,” he added.

WIP supports economic growth and diversification by building a highly-skilled, ambitious and qualified workforce, while linking community goals with the state’s economic strategy.

Melissa Anderson is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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