County Commissioner Candidate Responses: What is your prescription for attracting businesses and job seekers?

(Gillette, Wyo.) A lot of people have stepped up to run for public office in Campbell County, including 11 candidates for county commissioner. The list of commissioner candidates includes three incumbents.

As part of our goal here at County 17 of informing voters for the upcoming primaries, we are sending out unique questions for each race to let voters get a better understanding of who the candidates are.

This is the final question we posed to the commissioner candidates. (Previous responses can be found here and here).

Previous questions in this set:

Do you have time to be a commissioner?

What is the proper role of commissioners at other levels of government?

How would you make funding decisions and set priorities?

Should the county save money?

Does Government Have a Responsibility to Help an Economy Diversify?

The primaries are Aug. 21.

Taxes are a contentious issue, and some people argue tax rates need to be lowered to attract businesses. Despite having some of the lowest tax rates in the country (see information below), Wyoming still has trouble attracting businesses, as well as residents to fill positions. Why do you think Wyoming is having this problem, and what is your prescription for attracting businesses and job seekers? What do we need to do to diversify our economy? (limit 750 words)

Wyoming is ranked No. 48 for “State-Local Tax Burdens per Capita & as a Percentage of Income, 1st for Overall Business Tax Climate (1 is best), is 1 of 7 states with no personal income tax, is 1 of 2 states that do not levy a corporate income or gross receipts tax, 44th for State & Local Sales Tax Rates (1 is highest), 33rd for Gas Tax (1 is highest), 46th for Property Taxes Paid as a Percentage of Owner-Occupied Housing Value (1 is highest), and 1 of 35 states with no estate tax (all according to information from the Tax Foundation)

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Matt Avery

I personally believe this is a great question for the legislators not the county commissioners. The commissioners have no control over taxes and how they are structured. They have no way of raising or lowering them, other than the mill levy which is now just a little over 11 mills. The county has the ability to access up to 12 mills. There are only 2 counties in the whole state that do not assess the full 12 mills and they are, Teton County and Campbell County.

Knowing that we have the lowest tax structure around I believe as a state we are not promoting ourselves enough. The state ENDOW is currently working on what new businesses or industries could come to Wyoming and I feel we may be seeing something happen through them. All of this takes time and a lot of effort but this is something that everyone could get involved in to help promote our state and our community.

Rusty Bell

I believe Wyoming has the tax problem because we rely too heavily on mineral industries.  70% or more of all the taxes in Wyoming are paid for by mineral industries.  This is also the reason we have big ups and big downs in our state and local economies.  I think legislature needs to take a look at a neutral tax bill, that would give mineral industries a tax decrease, but that would mean there would have to be an increase to the residents of Wyoming.  Whatever that decrease to mineral industry would have to be made up from personal and commercial property tax.  This may not be popular, but I do not see another way around the dependence on mineral production.  What this may do is free up money for those mineral industries to invest in economic development or diversity.

We need to continue to promote carbon technology and carbon capture technologies.  We need to bring people to our area, tell them our story and start a new technology story.  Coal is the most affordable energy resource in the world.  We should be shipping our low Sulphur coal around the world and promoting is be used in technological ways that have no carbon impact.  These technologies should be researched and developed in Campbell County.   As a community we should be coming together to welcome and promote these industries and technologies.

Linda Bricker

(No photo provided)

Not being a Democrat I must say that raising taxes does not encourage or grow jobs. I am extremely proud to be in one of the lowest taxed states in the country. One of the main reasons why Wyoming and Gillette and Wright has a hard time attracting business is because of our climate. People love it here in the Summer,  but when it’s 30 below with 45 degree windchill factor, not so much. That is I think, the biggest reason people don’t want to stay here. That would be similar to the reason some would never choose Alaska. Beautiful beyond belief, but dark so much of the year. Anyway, that’s why us tough Wyomingites  stay here and love it so much. We were bred for this part of the country and no amount of weather will drive us out. Again, I am going to repeat myself from another question given me. What is wrong with Gillette leveling off? Yes we need businesses, but we are not Cheyenne, Casper, or even Billings.  And can you imagine encroaching on Wright that way! That’s what we love about these towns. Remember, you must take the bad with the good when wishing for more. Being a country girl at heart and loving my community so much let us remember our roots and stop reaching for unrealistic growth. In my opinion, keeping your town and county family friendly will always attract people who want to be here. And there will always be entrepreneurs out there wanting to build a new business. Job seekers want to be here because we have the best schools in the country, the best people, and the most friendly businesses. We have not lost touch with the people. Oh, and did I mention the greatest Doctors and Dentists.

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Randy Greer

I believe we need to keep taxes low. Reducing regulations, building codes, and zoning will make it a friendly environment for people to build and bring in new businesses. The coal mines bring in a wide variety of citizens but with the boom and busts, it’s hard for people to stay or even move their families here.

Roy Lowell

Tax incentives always help to re-locate a business because re-locating is a burden.  Tax incentives are the reward to businesses for adding to our economy. They are not forever and companies understand this but they do offset their initial expenses and are incentives to bring them to the table.  The book of statistics disagrees with Wyoming’s low tax rate status.  As a matter of fact the “Farmer’s Almanac”…a great book of statistics, will show you figures showing the highest tax per capita.  Examples to be considered are:  $800 license plate fees, taxable house square footage that includes the basements actually are ½ the size but are quoted as larger.  These are overlooked in the figures. So figures are debatable if we are to be honest with each other.

Wyoming has trouble attracting businesses because we keep electing the “Good Ole Boys” that think like we have always thought.  This is a new era.  Old thinking will keep us in old ways.  They are not all that bad if you own a lot of property and are self-sufficient.  The problem is we have another group of people living here as well; and those are the ones that need jobs.

As I mentioned in answering question #5 we need to start thinking about diversification and Venture Capital and stocks.  NOT TAX infused supplements to pay for start-ups. This means we need to start getting world business ready.  Diversification does not mean expansion.  It means adding to our present ways of doing business.  Manufacturing, Processing, distribution etc. are just some of the ways to diversify.  Expansion is always good and one will realize how much easier expanding is when more diversification takes place.  The growth can be exponential.

We love to tax businesses all we can. We have a track record of that.  Some of our current County Commissioners want to add an excise tax to tires.  I hate to disappoint them but there already is a federal excise tax on tires.  The quickest way to slow an economy is to tax it a little higher.  It has a direct effect on the economy.  Raise gas prices 50 cents a gallon and use 100 gallons a week with two vehicles and there goes another $50 per week out the window that could have been spent on birthday or Christmas gifts. That amounts to $200 per month in increase gas tax and there goes your fishing boat.  Oops, that is another diversified purchase. Yes, we are tax broke and taxes are counter-productive to attracting anyone.  We need to start attracting business, attracting people and allow the new good jobs to have its influx on the economics of Campbell County and Wyoming.

Bob Maul

(No photo provided)

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As I stated in the answer to question 5 we need to provide a way to get products in and out of our area faster, easier, and cheaper to all parts of our country. We need to have the opportunity to demonstrate the friendliness, hospitality, and desire to bring new business to our area. We need to work on customer service it seems to be an area that we fallen down on. As I told you from the very beginning I don’t sugar coat things and this is an area that I am continually told that we fall short of as a community. I know you folks you all are very nice and friendly, so let us show others how well we can do it. If we work at it I believe that we can come up with the right formula to make this all happen. I wish I had time to continue but I am out of time today. God Bless you all and Our Great Community.

Troy McKeown

The largest employer in Campbell County is Campbell County. I firmly believe that you CANNOT tax a community into prosperity.  Wyoming problem’s for attracting new business lies within poor access.  Numerous rules and regulations stop many from coming.  I witnessed government agencies make it difficult on new entities in order to preserve our way of life.  The power for these decisions should lie with the voter and not the government.  I will say it again, the government cannot get involved in determining the haves and have nots.  It is crucial to let the business community and the people make these decisions.  We can through buckets of money at the issue and make promises to get new industry in, but it is a poor investment.  We need to develop a climate that makes them WANT to come here.  We should welcome new businesses here but not through entitlements.  We also need to take of our own local small businesses they are the back bone of all revenues.

DG Reardon

Wyoming’s problem attracting business is not a function of the tax rates.  In fact the tax rates are relatively low and should be favorable for attracting businesses.  I do not agree that lowering our tax rates to attract business will work.  The problem lies with the low population of Wyoming, which for native Wyomingites is a bonus, but for larger businesses that are trying to attract people from larger metropolitan areas, this is a problem.  Wyoming does not have large population centers and a huge labor pool to pick from and businesses see this as an issue.  Transportation to and from large shipping centers is also a problem.  Almost anything made in Wyoming has to be shipped to where the consumers are.  As mentioned above we are fairly isolated and do not have the population to consume everything we make.  We also live in a state that does not have the best weather for recruiting from across the country.  We can’t do much about the weather but we can extoll the benefits of living in a “four season” area that does not have devastating heat, hurricanes, and all the other catastrophic weather, which some areas of the country have.  We also have a low crime rate and a great education system which is attractive to many people.  There are many benefits to living in Wyoming and we have to use those to our advantage when recruiting businesses to our area.

To attract business we have to have a strong secondary educational center which can train workers for whatever business we recruit.  Gillette College can fill that need.  We also need a strong recruiting campaign to bring more people to the area to fill the jobs that are available or jobs that will become available with new industry.  Campbell County and the State of Wyoming have multiple positive recruiting features for the right people.  These can be developed and enhanced through Gillette Visitors Bureau and other entities.  Campbell County has to build on the businesses that are here, attract small businesses that can grow and also look into larger businesses that are looking for expansion or wholesale relocation similar to Weatherby Firearms relocating to Sheridan WY.

Brian Rozier
This candidate did not provide responses.

Micky Shober

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Wyoming has a reputation of remoteness, lack of big city amenities, and lack of direct flights to major cities. Wyoming also lacks existing large buildings that can be repurposed. We also have a small population and low unemployment.

Maybe all the reasons I listed are qualities that we would hate to lose. I would be happy with our economy if we are able to provide good jobs for our school system graduates, maintain our low unemployment rate and our positive growth rate.

We can learn some lessons from Cheyenne and other cities about how they are attracting businesses. If a team loses the first game and goes home to disband, they will never go on to be champions. We need to learn from our mistakes and look to the future.

Capitalizing on carbon byproducts and resources,  as I have detailed earlier, as well as expanding tourism, can greatly benefit our county. A 10% increase in motel room occupancy would generate over $8 million in revenues. Tourism has great opportunities for Campbell County with 7,970 annual average daily traffic count of cars on I-90 east side of Gillette. We need to work on ways to attract a stop in our county and extend their time exploring our communities. Most visitors are looking for a working ranch, wildlife, and wide-open spaces.

Campbell County has all of these features. One of the fastest growing outdoor sports, biking on single trails, is well-suited to our wide-open spaces, western skies,  majestic views of the Powder River Basin. The Shober family chose this part of Wyoming over 130 years ago, and I still love this part of Wyoming that I call home.

Robert J. Kothe (Democrat)
This candidate did not provide responses.

Originally from New Mexico, Killough began his career writing freelance for a weekly magazine in Albuquerque while completing his undergraduate degree. In addition to reporting on uranium mining in western New Mexico, he spent three years reporting in western North Dakota during the height of the oil boom. He can be reached at or 701-641-6603.