Holding their warm coffee cups tight, members of the state economic diversification initiative known as ENDOW filed off an Albany County School District No. 1 school bus Monday into the chilly morning air.
The cold sun shone brightly in the cloudless blue sky and some members of the group paused to admire the snow-covered mountains to the west before heading into UL Laramie Technology Center.
“We recognized early that preserving the ridge as viewshed would not only benefit the community, but also allow us to more easily market the business park,” Laramie City Manager Janine Jordan explained to the ENDOW executive council. “This is not your grandfather’s business park. It truly is cutting edge.”
Gathered from all four corners of the state to discuss preliminary findings and recommendations to Gov. Matt Mead and the Wyoming Legislature, the ENDOW members also toured some of Laramie’s businesses to kick off their public meeting.
“There are some really important benefits (to hosting the public meeting in Laramie),” said Jerimiah Rieman, Gov. Matt Mead’s director of economic diversification strategy and initiatives. “We have the opportunity to learn about the various connections with entrepreneurship at the Wyoming Technology Business Center. We’re definitely interested in developing that ecosystem.”
Mead created the ENDOW initiative this spring and tasked the executive council with developing a long-term plan to diversify the state’s economy, coordinating and expanding ongoing diversification efforts across the state and producing measurable results expanding the Wyoming economy. The executive council consists of 15 members appointed to represent a variety of Wyoming’s economic sectors.
Inside UL, the group circled around Randal Six, UL’s IT manager, to ask questions about bringing big technology corporations to Wyoming.
“The prospect of having a facility like this and being able to formulate a culture was very attractive,” Six said. “They also knew if they could recruit talent, they felt the attrition rate would be low. Additionally, the (Wyoming Technology Business Center) had a very critical role to play in why the UL moved to Laramie.”
With the business center in place, not only did UL look at the institution as a possible recruitment source, but Six said the global independent safety science company formerly known as Underwriters Laboratories saw potential in the center’s internet infrastructure should any problems arise in the Cirrus Sky development.
After discussing the possibility of attracting more tech companies to the business park, the ENDOW group piled back on to ACSD No. 1 School Bus No. 50 and headed for the business center.
With several incubator businesses to tour before leaving the center, Wyoming Technology Business Center CEO Jon Benson greeted the group in the foyer for a quick introduction.
“We have incubators in Laramie, Sheridan and Casper,” Benson said. “We serve two kinds of clients. One is a business development company that we work closely with. Economic development clients are the other. Economic development clients are companies attracted to Wyoming or the facility because of some resource we have.”
Dry erase notes coated a wall floor to ceiling inside Teton Composites, one of the incubators current clients.
“Teton is really all about predicting the reliability of the part before (companies) go out and sell it,” Teton Composites CEO Mike Kmetz said. “We work with General Motors running analysis on parts, and we’re currently looking at another client that launches satellites.”
At the next stop, Airloom Energy, the group learned about a company developing nontraditional wind energy generation sources.
“Our blades are 6 meters long instead of 55 meters,” Airloom Energy Robert Lumley said. “We think this will really change the wind energy industry.”
Lumley’s turbines stand about 100 feet tall and an entire turbine can be easily transported on a single semi truck. Using airfoil wings that run along an oval track, he said the technology would significantly shrink wind farms.
“Each of our wings is about 40 kilowatts, but you can add 100 of them (on a single turbine),” Lumley said. “You can fix them. You can maintain them. You can take a few of them out of service. It should be easier maintenance than traditional wind turbines, but we don’t know yet.”
Before breaking for lunch and beginning their public meeting schedule, the group also toured Bright Agrotech and Big Hollow Food Co-op.
Laramie is the sixth Wyoming municipality the executive council has toured this year, Rieman said.
“Each one of these communities we’ve toured has been important, so we can gather what the opportunities are as well as our constraints,” he said. “It’s important to see the success that can come from building our own future.”