By Tom Dixon
WBC Senior Communications
When the Wyoming Business Council started in 1998, economic developers in the state focused on recruiting outside businesses by touting Wyoming’s low taxes and light regulation.
It wasn’t enough.
Companies wanted land with infrastructure like water, gas, electricity, roads and internet access. Two decades ago, Wyoming communities didn’t have enough of those ready-to-build sites available.
The Wyoming Legislature sought to fill that need in 2003 with the Business Ready Community grant and loan program.
Public infrastructure eligible for funding includes water, sewer, roads, airports, rights of way, telecommunications, land, spec buildings, amenities within a business park, landscaping and recreation and educational facilities.
Since then, the state’s economic development agency has contributed $367 million to 352 projects in all 23 counties. Those projects have included 116 miles of roads, 150 miles of water and sewer and 1.7 million square feet of buildings.
That development formed the foundation for communities to attract and help expand new businesses. Those businesses have invested more than $1.28 billion in private capital. To date, the BRC program has helped create 4,669 jobs. Another 391 jobs are expected following the completion of projects currently under construction.
Cheyenne data centers, Laramie technology firms, Sheridan manufacturing companies, Big Horn Basin agricultural exporters and Campbell County industrial facilities have all emerged thanks, in part, to the Business Ready Community program.
While construction of business-ready sites and facilities will always be important, the BRC program is flexible enough to begin meeting a new mission, as supply for those sites is finally catching up to demand.
Wyoming is increasingly competing in a global market where the most valuable commodities are software and technology that rely on the creativity and innovation of people rather than widgets built in warehouses and hulking equipment.
In this changing economy, software developers, programmers, data analysts, engineers, marketers, designers and more are working where they want to live instead of living where they want to work.
Wyoming communities offer many of those people the kind of lifestyle they want. Small towns, minimal commutes, wildlife traipsing down Main Street and expansive vistas broken only by towering peaks.
The BRC program is designed to help towns build on these natural advantages. Since 2003, the Business Council has provided $22.4 million in grants to build 34 community amenity projects ranging from community centers and sports complexes to historic theater renovations and downtown public spaces.
In Casper, city officials have used BRC money to reclaim the North Platte River as it wends through town, and construct a biathlon center capable of attracting international events and a downtown public plaza that is spurring millions in private investment.
Many of Wyoming’s smallest communities – including Cowley, Greybull, Lovell, Saratoga, Lander – built community and recreation centers with BRC money.
Laramie, Gillette, Dubois, Buffalo and others have renovated downtown public spaces and improved streetscapes.
These investments appeal to new workers, entice existing small business owners to expand and make a community more attractive to residents and visitors alike.
To learn more about projects in your county, visit the Business Council’s updated Project Profiles page.