Wyoming Economist, Businesspeople, Politicos: We’re In A Hole, But We Can Dig Out Of It
This year's downturn in the Wyoming's energy sector directly lost 9,000 jobs and was indirectly related to as many as another 9,000 job losses, a University of Wyoming economist said Tuesday.
"The weight of Wyoming jobs has for a very long time have been on the shoulders of a very few, quite frankly," Anne Alexander said.
"And we rely on exporting those goods outside the state and outside to the rest of the world, and that means we do have a long hard slog," she said at the annual central Wyoming business forum sponsored by the Wyoming Business Report.
"But it's not undoable," Alexander said. "We're Wyoming, right? We're Wyomingites. We are tough. We know how to pull up our sleeves and work."
Working out of this predicament, however, requires creativity and not blaming Washington, D.C., or anyone else in what Alexander called a "circular firing squad."
Those grim numbers have negative ripple effects on other industries and state revenues, which will make for a tough general session of the 2017 Legislature next month, she and others said.
Other participants at the forum offered perspectives in analyzing and diversifying the local and state economies.
Charles Walsh, the new president and CEO of the Casper Area Economic Development Alliance, said more needs to be done to expand the marketing and other capabilities of existing businesses. (CAEDA receives funding through the City of Casper's and Natrona County's Economic Development Joint Powers Board, along with some private financing.)
Economic developers also should recruit businesses to Wyoming that complement and not compete with existing businesses, and foster innovation.
Matt Micheli, chairman of the Wyoming Republican Party, said he's bullish on the state.
President-elect Donald Trump's nominees such as Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt for the Environmental Protection Agency offer hope that some regulations that affect Wyoming's industries can be rolled back, and that the federal government will listen to western interests, Micheli said.
Randy Hall of Casper real estate company BrokerOne said housing prices are off 3 percent from last year, and industrial and office building prices are off about 20 percent.
However, the retail real estate market has been robust, with about 90 percent occupancy and new construction underway, Hall said.
Rep. Mary Throne, D-Cheyenne, will not be returning to the Legislature. She it will face "scary huge shortfalls in education," upwards of $600 million in the next biennium.
Throne also agreed with Micheli about Washington's attitude toward Wyoming because of President Barack Obama's heavy-handed attitude towards states in regulatory matters.
However, Wyoming can only blame its problems or look to the federal government for assistance as long as the state remains a third-world commodity-exporting colony of energy interests, she said.
Mark Pepper, chairman of the city-county Economic Development Joint Powers Board, said Casper needs more connectivity and fiber-optic redundancy for communications, and it needs to work more with the resources at Casper College and the Casper-Natrona County International Airport.
To see Anne Alexander's Power Point presentation delivered at the Wyoming Business Report forum on Tuesday, click here.