Wyoming Business Council CEO Speaks at Chamber Luncheon
Shawn Reese, CEO of the Wyoming Business Council (WBC), was scheduled to speak at the Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce Luncheon on Wednesday, April 10, but was unable to make the trip due to road conditions. Using technology, Reese was still able to talk to the group about economic development in Sheridan via video conference.
According to Reese, the WBC has administered nearly $35 million in infrastructure investments in Sheridan through the Community Development Block Grant Program. That money was matched dollar-for-dollar with private investments, Reese said. The WBC has also helped secure $13 million in state funding, he added.
Reese listed the industrial sectors identified by the WBC with the most potential impact on the state’s economy: natural resources, advanced manufacturing, agriculture, tourism and travel, and knowledge and creativity.
The WBC will be re-evaluating their programs at their May meeting, he said.
“How do we turn up the volume on things that are working?” he asked. “How do we get rid of what’s not?”
Reese stated that bringing in businesses from out of state, such as Weatherby, is definitely great, but he sees an untapped potential in homegrown businesses. That’s why the WBC has been focusing attention on AgTerra, a Sheridan business applying advanced technology to the local agriculture industry.
Reese admitted that a lot of their efforts are exploratory.
“We’re building the ship while we’re trying to fly it,” he said.
Reese also fielded questions from the audience, the first of which came from Sen. Dave Kinskey who asked, in an age of traditional retail vs. the internet, what does the downtown of the future look like?
Reese said the WBC’s Main Street program is piloting a program in the Big Horn Basin to address the impending departure of Shopko. They are inventorying what the community will lose and what the downtown can fill in, he explained.
Next, Rep. Cyrus Western asked about how the WBC tailors their outreach to local communities and economic development groups.
The groups they interface with cover a wide spectrum, according to Reese, from sophisticated development groups to small towns with municipal clerks. He said the WBC realizes that one size doesn’t fit all.
Gail Symons asked the final question. In her experience, she said, people often wonder why the state needs both the WBC and the ENDOW initiative.
“As head of the WBC, I think the appropriate role for ENDOW is something like a think tank,” Reese said.
ENDOW is good at approaching complex, long-term problems, such as taxation, while the WBC, he explained, is better at near-term development of the economy on a local level.
Reese thanked everyone for their patience and understanding regarding his absence.