City Council Candidate Responses: What are your thoughts on economic development?

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(Gillette, Wyo.) There are eight candidates running for city council in contested races.

There are three candidates for mayor. There are also four candidates in two races for Ward I council positions. Why are there two races for Ward I? There are three wards in Gillette, with two councilors in each ward. Kevin McGrath resigned from his Ward I position, and the council appointed Shawn Neary to that Ward I position. It has two years remaining, and Bruce Brown and Darin Edmonds are running for that spot. The second Ward I council position is also up for election for a four-year term. Shawn Neary and Terry Sjolin are vying for that spot on the council.

Incumbents Tim Carsrud and Robin Kuntz in Ward II and Ward III are also up for election, but their races are unchallenged.

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.

We’ll be posting answers from the councilor candidates through today and the weekend. Here’s previous responses:

What are your thoughts on economic development and diversification activities? Do you think they are necessary, why or why not? Do you have a vision for the city of Gillette? How would you go about getting there? How would you go about funding it? Is it better to keep government out of economic development, or is some level of government involvement good and/or necessary? (500 words)

Mayoral Candidate Louise Carter-King

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The next challenge is to continue to diversify our economy so we don’t experience the cycle of booms and busts and can maintain a more stable economy.

Kawasaki, Atlas Carbon, and Clean Coal Technology are three examples of new industries developing methods to use carbon in different and innovative ways.

We also have funded a study to see what we can do to use our first-class facilities to their fullest potential and bring tourists to fill our restaurants and hotels. As a parent who has followed my children to many sporting events I know how much revenue this could mean to our community!

Our sales tax is steadily increasing and new industries are moving in with Integrated Testing Center and all it has to offer including the Xprize foundation.

I have fielded questions from all over the state, nation, and world. News organizations wanted to hear how we were making it through the difficult times.  I was proud to brag about our city and told everyone not to count us out. We had been through bad times before and have always come back leading our state in innovation, working together, and getting things done. We are still the envy of the state.

Mayoral Candidate Jarik Dudley

On a local level, the city is responsible for economic development only by positioning our framework to complement infrastructure that will incentivize, nurture, develop, and expand the economy. As for economic diversification, local businesses, entrepreneurs and the market depict how diversified we can be. Our government’s role in business is to state a need, and let the entrepreneurs and businesses in our community find solutions for that need. That goes along with the adage, see a need fill a need.

I believe Gillette has an industrial expertise that is unmatched in other parts of this country. We can exploit this expertise and utilize these skills in several industries unrelated to coal. Our city has the best engineers, welders, machinist, etc. that can offer manufacturing and fabrication businesses the skilled labor, necessary to succeed. In order for us to be competitive, we need a second artery connecting us to major cities to the south. We already have a significant rail system and a main artery going West and East. If we added a southern artery, it could open up opportunities for businesses that work within the region. Funding for this project to increase our future economic viability would have to be proposed to the state.

There will always be some level of government intervention when it comes to business. Government involvement is necessary only to protect our property rights in regards to activities that could potentially harm our citizens. Nobody wants a business to dump waste in the creeks or on privately owned land.  That has the potential to affect the community we live in.

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Mayoral Candidate Robert Kaczmarek

Wow economic and development that is a tough one to answer, I think that it does need to take place but in a proper manner, as for funding any project it needs to be studied very carefully before funding if it aids the City in one way or another and it is good when that time comes then we can talk about it more.   I see Gillette become a City of production and a place were work can be found,  As with anything anymore the Government has there hand it to way too much even if it be not needed so much so as to hinder it as it does now.


Ward I (2-year) Councilor Candidate Bruce Brown

We have discussed diversifying our economy in Wyoming for decades. This is a complex issue and many good people have worked to diversify our economy. This is why I think economic development is extremely important to the City of Gillette. Going through this last downturn in the economy has been challenging. During this time Energy Capital Economic Development has been busy working on clean coal technology and carbon capture to help to diversify our economy. With all of the energy development in Gillette there is no reason why we can’t be the shining city on the hill, lit up by coal, oil and gas production.

I believe government has a place in economic development. Developing a strong infrastructure is the foundation upon which economic development is built. Infrastructure is something that government is responsible for and for that reason I think government involvement is good and necessary. Infrastructure also includes an educated and trained workforce for employers to draw from. The last piece of economic development pie is where I think government has a role is in helping to improve the quality of life to attract qualified workers.

We need to focus on making our existing businesses strong. We focus too much on recruitment and that is just a small piece of economic development. If we have the foundation in place new businesses will find and move Gillette especially if we focus on our strengths.  With all of the raw material is in our backyard we should be able to lead the country in the clean coal technology. This new technology is projected to add 2,600 jobs in Wyoming and most of those jobs could land in Gillette and Campbell County.

Ward I (2-year) Councilor Candidate Darin Edmonds

Economic development and diversification have certainly been thrust in the limelight more than ever before. Living here as long as I have, I have seen the booms and busts of the past. But this one was different.  Previously, only one major energy component struggled that affected the economy. Most recently, there was a major downturn in all of the energy sectors at the same time.  There is nothing I am more excited about right now than the innovation and competition going on at the integrated test center. It is quite possible that not only one, but multiple technologies may bloom from that center that will literally change the world, and the Powder River Basin forever. Different uses for carbon, uses for the waste products of burning coal, and perhaps different ways to burn coal altogether may spawn from that center over the next years. As the epicenter of not only the resource receiving so much attention, but also the community poised to take advantage of this “new age” the City, County and State must start planning for a future that sees something other than trains delivering coal to ever-decreasing power plants.

In order to attract the technology companies, and the support industries that will follow there must be planning, recruitment and incentive for them to want to locate here. Is there adequate infrastructure (highways, interstates, roads, rail, internet, etc.) Is there enough amenities in the community for families to want to locate and live here?  We all know how easily coal and energy can be transported out of Campbell County, and along with it, those world-changing opportunities. It isn’t enough to simply say “the coal is here, the rest should be here too.” We need to develop a community where they WANT to be here, and stay here.

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Those efforts could look like expanding the college,  growing and expanding recreation, arts and entertainment opportunities, more diverse shopping and dining experiences, and community development that fosters community involvement and activity. Since it “takes money to make money” there should be some investment and commitment from the local governing entities who stand to benefit greatly from economic development. That investment should be minimal, but be extremely effective and targeted.  We live in a free market economy, and private investment will play the biggest part in any economic development. The investment from local government should be in the community that will ultimately attract and retain that diversity.


Ward I (4-year) Councilor Candidate Terry Sjolin

Diversification is a must. With the changes in the energy industry, coal production in particular, we need to find new ways to sustain our economy. The current carbon capture research is only a first step towards economic recovery. We can look at examples of other energy reliant towns and apply those concepts to Gillette. Encouraging different industry such as manufacturing and tourism, to help stabilize the economy when energy is down is a must. Gillette should search for these types of opportunities in addition to new ways of using coal. Also, we should utilize our current facilities to their potential and encourage increased visitation.

My vision for our future is for the citizens to keep living, working and raising their families here and enjoying the best quality of life possible. Good paying jobs, good schools and a variety of activities and facilities are why people live here and why they stay. Maintaining the current city services and infrastructure we have is part of that equation.

Increased tourism and new industry will help boost our sales tax revenue and provide more jobs. I think it is the responsibility of the Council to support growth and expansion to meet the needs of the taxpayers.

Ward I (4-year) Councilor Candidate Shawn Neary

What are your thoughts on economic development and diversification activities?

  • Any effort that we can make in diversifying our economy would be beneficial for our City.

Do you think they are necessary, why or why not?

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  • It is necessary for our continued growth and sustainability as a City.

Do you have a vision for the city of Gillette?

  • My vision is to have all the entities in Gillette work together to continue to make our city great and prosper.  Those entities include the City, the County, the College, the School District, and the Hospital.

How would you go about getting there?

  • Working together to accomplish more for Gillette and Campbell County.

How would you go about funding it?

  • We can get a lot done with what we have (including the 1%).  There may be more ways to increase funding and all the options need to be discussed and explored.

 

 

 

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 kevin@county17.com or 701-641-6603.