Thriving in Wyoming
WBC provides update and discusses business opportunities
On Dec. 5, during the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) Winter Roundup Convention and Trade Show held in Casper, Wyoming Business Council (WBC) Chief Executive Officer Josh Dorrell discussed future business opportunities in Wyoming.
WBC approaches economic development by identifying problems and breaking down barriers, which builds a more resilient economy.
“How do we ensure Wyoming communities are resilient in the future? This is something really important to think about,” Dorrell stated. “We want to make sure the boom-and-bust cycle our state has experienced is not so much of a boom-and-bust.”
Looking to the future
In order to do this, Dorrell noted Wyoming needs to ensure its communities have the skills and tools they need to “weather these storms” and succeed.
The goal of WBC is to create opportunities and jobs for Wyomingites now and into the future, and it recognizes what makes businesses successful.
Dorrell noted, “As economists, we love imports and exports, and in Wyoming, we export many things which bring revenue to the state.”
According to WBC, Wyoming’s agricultural sector is the state’s third-largest industry, contributing $1.8 billion per year to Wyoming’s economy.
To help Wyoming producers reach new markets, WBC has created a new tool to help with exporting goods – Wyoming Table.
Wyoming Table connects regional, national and international customers with local producers. The online tool allows customers to access the most delicious food and drinks from local producers in Wyoming.
“Wyoming Table is a really cool directory of the goods and services created by local producers,” Dorrell explained. “We want to help producers connect to a global market, because we know exporting products is a great thing for local business owners and the economy of Wyoming.”
“We like exporting goods, but we don’t like exporting talent. Wyoming does export more talent than any of our neighbors,” Dorrell noted. “We export 55 percent of the people who were born here.”
Wyoming exports more individuals every year than it keeps. Students graduate from Wyoming high schools and colleges, only to take their newly-learned skills outside of the state.
In fact, a 2020 report from McKinsey and Company revealed about 66 percent of University of Wyoming (UW) graduates relocate after earning their degrees, many of whom migrate to surrounding Western states.
“It’s part of the WBC mission to make sure there are opportunities for Wyomingites, for those who leave to travel and receive an education but want to return to the lifestyle they grew up with and love,” he expressed. “There’s a lot we have to offer, but we need to work together and invest in our communities. We need to find solutions to the challenges we are facing and create jobs for our youth.”
Growing Wyoming’s economy
“A Wyoming kid had an idea, and he worked on it while attending UW. Today, this idea is a company called Plenty Unlimited, Inc. (Plenty),” Dorrell stated. “This kid was Nate Storey, who, while earning a PhD in agronomy, developed a new company revolutionizing the way produce is cultivated and sold.”
Plenty specializes in vertical, indoor farming – a new industry gaining attention for its ability to supply high-quality produce year-round using relatively small amounts of water and land without the use of pesticides.
“Plenty grows food indoors, which allows us to grow it almost anywhere and to grow almost anything,” Dorrell added. “In much of the world where food supplies are constrained by geography and the environment, Plenty can grow food.”
In February 2023, Plenty announced it would expand its research and development capabilities by building its latest vertical research center in Laramie. Plenty’s new research center is projected to be a more than 60,000-square-foot facility built on 16 acres of land in the Cirrus Sky Technology Park in Laramie.
“As the state’s economic development agency, we want to make it so each community can have its own special identity, have its own special economy and be able to solve the challenges that come before them,” Dorrell concluded. “And, we see Plenty as a really good model to do just this, while stopping the export of what we love the most.”
Melissa Anderson is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.