After getting denied three months ago on an $11 million grant application for a proposed industrial park, county officials have been forced to cut the request in half and take a different approach to project.
The Campbell County Commissioners made it clear their willingness to do what they say will diversify the local economy due to the rapidly changing oil and gas industry. They have spent nearly two years working on funding for a proposed 247-acre project for heavy industrial designed to house eight shovel-ready lots near Cam-Plex and the Gillette College rodeo arena.
This week, the county will make its fourth attempt since 2020 to receive an American Rescue Plan federal grant for the proposed Pronghorn Industrial Park after getting the commissioners’ approval last week. The grant is from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Agency (EDA), which last summer launched a $300 million Coal Communities Commitment program to assist hard-hit coal and energy communities.
Campbell County, the coal capital of the nation, is struggling to get its hands on a small piece of that assistance. This time, city leaders are hopeful with their new plan to lure large companies to compensate for the loss of energy jobs locally.
“I think this our third attempt at this, I think that speaks how important this project is to this board,” Commission Chairman Del Shelstad said. “We hear about diversifying our economy in Campbell County all the time, so this is a huge step in doing that.”
Local officials did not want to phase the project but have been left with no other alternative. The last application, which was denied in October, was an $11-million request. It was denied because the EDA told officials it was too much of an ask.
Now that phasing is the next step in bringing the industrial park to reality, the grant request was cut in half.
Matt Olsen, Campbell County Public Works director, explained that the EDA believes the county needs only $5 million which, if coupled with a grant match of approximately $1.5 million from the commission, should accommodate the extension of Boxelder Road as well as improvements to both Fox Park Avenue and the access road from Highway 51.
The changes to the application should be more in line with what officials have been told by the EDA.
“We are hoping this one is much more successful,” he said. “We have got some feedback from EDA already that we are going to be in their parameters, whereas before we didn’t have any parameters and they didn’t like it.”
The biggest cut is the first few tenants will have to be on a septic system, with the intent to connect with the sewer system down the line.
“In doing that, it really sets it up to be more appeasing to get the city involved and get it annexed, which helps get in all their infrastructure,” Olsen said. “Down the road, additional phases would occur. There is the potential of going after a Wyoming Business Council grant to where we can put in a sewer system.”
Additional phases would then include building out the remainder of the industrial park after the first three lots are occupied.
“As a phased approach, we think this is prudent and cost-effect, maxing what the EDA dollars will do in terms of getting this developed.”