State Senate Candidate Responses: What is your prescription for attracting businesses and job seekers?

(Gillette, Wyo.) Senate districts 1 and 23 in Campbell County have contested races this year.

As part of our goal here at County 17 of informing voters for the upcoming primaries, we are sending out unique questions for each candidate in those races to let you better know your candidates. Here are the responses to our final of eight questions.

The primaries are Aug. 21.

Previous responses:

Why whould people elect you to represent them in the Wyoming Legislature?

How do you plan to balance the time requirements with your own career or life?

How will mineral taxes impact wyoming’s future?

How do you propose the legislature fund school construction?

How can the legislature address school funding?

How would you resolve the issues with the Madison Water Supply Project?

-- Advertisement – Story Continues Below --

Does government have a responsibility to help an economy diversify?

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)

Ogden Driskill (District 01)

The statement [on taxes] is a great one.  It is obvious that the real impediments to attracting businesses and residents is to have a truly business friendly environment.  We act like we have one, yet when you talk to businesses that do business in multiple states, they will tell you that other than on paper, Wyoming does not have a business-friendly environment.

I will cite a couple of examples.  Last session Representative Lindholm and I sponsored a bill to streamline gravel mining permitting process.  We found that you can get a mining permit for gravel in surrounding states in 3 months or less and at a cost of less than $50,000.  The same permit in Wyoming costs $100,000 plus and takes over a year to get.   Another local business who operates in multiple states has told me they would expand into ANY of the other states that they do business in before Wyoming because of regulatory burdens.   There are many of the same type examples out there—we truly must lessen our regulatory burdens and laws if we wish to attract new business or have local business expand.  A state with a low tax burden and flexible rules and regulations is what attracts businesses and residents.

We also must show we are willing to diversify our economy.   We truly need to look inward an make sure we have an environment that attracts business.  Having the best business ranking in the United States is great but we must truly have a business-friendly environment on the ground for it to work.  Being “book smart” with straight As does not mean that you will be successful in life.  The truth on the ground is that we are not truly a business-friendly state.  We must reach out to existing businesses in Wyoming that do business in multiple states and talk to businesses that have come and looked and left and find out what in their mind would create a business-friendly environment.

Judy McCullough (District 01)

-- Advertisement – Story Continues Below --

The war on coal and fossil fuels was a blow to Wyoming’s economy.  As it is struggling to gain back what it lost, there are also people struggling.  I am not requesting tax cuts, but I am requesting no more new taxes for the sake of the people as well as the businesses trying to get back on their feet.  This is not the time for a tax increase.  As the state’s reputation for good paying jobs recovers, more workers will come if the companies are in a position to not only hire, but pay well.  Mandates, rules, and regulations also affect new companies coming into Wyoming and I would like to see them cut to the essential rules and regulations to protect Wyoming citizens.

Part of the problem with attracting people and businesses is Wyoming’s weather, especially the wind.  Most of the state’s efforts seem to be for Cheyenne which is part of the high plains of Wyoming.  Their wind is worse than Campbell County wind.  There are places in Wyoming fairly wind free, but those areas typically get lots of snow.  It also depends on where the people are from.  For instance, if they come from a mild climate it is harder for them.  Right after the coal companies got started, Gillette and surrounding areas had three really bad winters in a row.  After the third winter, people from Pennsylvania left as soon as the snow melted, but the people from Wisconsin stayed.

In the advertizing that Gillette does, they need to be honest about the weather we have, and possibly look at people from areas with similar weather.  As a lady who is from California and married to a Wyoming rancher says, “You gotta be tough to live in Wyoming.”  Recruiting needs to focus on the good amenities for the wives so they will let their spouses stay and work here.

Lenard D. Seely (District 01)

Candidate did not respond to questionnaire.


Jeff Raney (District 23)

(No photo provided.)

Candidate did not respond to this question.

-- Advertisement – Story Continues Below --

Jeff Wasserburger (District 23)

This is a really good question. My thoughts are that Wyoming struggles to recruit good businesses to our state because we have a lack of amenities in our communities.  Employees want things like professional sports, theaters, art, food, and things to do.  Young workers today want these amenities along with bike paths and recreation centers which promote better health for them.  They want access to the internet.  I think that Wyoming should try to change our recruiting practices and focus on what we do have and not the things that we don’t.  Wyoming should recruit businesses that are focused on outdoor activities like fishing and hunting and the workers who want those things.  Wyoming should focus on hunting big game animals and allowing our new businesses and workers to hunt and fish as soon as possible.  Wyoming should focus on our mountains and the backpacking opportunities that our mountains give to them.  I think that Wyoming and local communities should concentrate on increasing local amenities over time so that in 20 years we have the things that young people want.

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.