By Bob Pepalis, The Center Square
Wyoming recently ranked 32nd in CNBC’s annual list of top states for businesses.
According to Wyoming Business Council CEO Josh Dorrell, the state is already addressing weaknesses identified in the annual ranking, which uses more than 85 different metrics in 10 key categories of competitiveness.
“As the CNBC rankings point out, Wyoming has been and continues to be business friendly and we have been improving in their rankings year after year,” Dorrell told The Center Square. “We have been ranked No. 1 by the Tax Foundation for six years running.”
A collaborative effort led by the WBC in 2019 created a state economic development strategy that focused on adding value to core industries of energy, tourism and agriculture, according to the business group. It also aimed to activate new economic sectors including digital, technology and advanced manufacturing.
Since the effort began and after a pandemic, the strategy has been broadly adopted, the Wyoming Business Council said.
“Creating a diverse, resilient Wyoming economy and new opportunities for current and future generations of Wyomingites is a big, complex undertaking that takes time,” Dorrell said.
The WBC’s 2022 Annual Report called the challenges real and difficult, saying they require a hard look at deciding to rely on heroics or systems.
“This time in Wyoming’s history calls for us to strengthen relationships, focus on economic resilience, and have the courage to develop systems that create lasting change,” the WBC report said.
Wyoming has business-friendly advantages, abundant natural resources, and ample recreational opportunities to draw workers, industries and investors, according to the WBC.
“Because of our unwavering optimism and ability to adapt and innovate, today we remain at the forefront of energy research and production,” Dorrell said. “One way we are growing our knowledge sector is by adding value to our energy and natural resources economic pillars.”
This is done by developing new products from natural resources like coal, while coupling that with being a leader in emerging net-zero emissions solutions such as hydrogen, carbon capture utilization and sequestration, rare earth elements and advanced-modular nuclear, according to WBC.
Those goals require developing the state’s knowledge sector, and that must have improved access to capital. CNBC gave Wyoming an “F” grade on this.
“We recognize this is a current shortcoming; however, in our application to the federal Treasury for the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI), we are 100% focused on venture capital,” Dorrell said. “We plan to use our entire allocation to capitalize two programs: one dedicated to funds supporting Wyoming entrepreneurs and a second to help entrepreneurs secure lead investors and close equity rounds faster.”
Improvement has been seen with the state having 21 growing industries in the last quarter of 2021, the WBC said. Those trends are shared in issues of Wyoming Labor Force Trends from the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services.
The Center Square is a 501(c)(3) non-profit focused on state- and local-level government and economic reporting.