CHEYENNE — With an announcement expected next week, the two finalists to become CEO of the Wyoming Business Council had their last chance to sway the council’s board of directors during their interviews Wednesday afternoon at Laramie County Community College.
Josh Dorrell, senior vice president at Trihydro Corporation, and Steve Farkas, assistant dean for the University of Wyoming College of Business, are the two remaining candidates, and each had 75 minutes to lay out their vision for the Business Council and answer questions from the council’s board and advisory committee.
Dorrell, who has spent his career mainly in the private sector, was the first to present. He said his top priority as CEO would be to increase the alignment and clarity of each role within the council.
“That idea of shared objectives and creating clarity of goals and responsibilities, that is your number one job as CEO,” Dorrell said. “And if we don’t do that, it doesn’t matter how many crazy ideas you have, because you’re not going to be able to get them done.”
Dorrell also said he wants the council to be more service-oriented by highlighting the opportunities available to businesses through the council.
“I know that there are a hundred things that we can do, but one of the things that we’re known as is a place to get grants and loans,” Dorrell said. “Instead, I want us to be known as service-first, not at the end when they’re needing the money, but really at the beginning.”
Dorrell noted many of the council’s programs are already effective, though he added the council’s investments will go further as they augment those services.
The interviews come a few months after the Wyoming Business Council began the process of better aligning its mission with the work of the ENDOW Executive Council, started under former Gov. Matt Mead.
When asked by board co-chairwoman Megan Goetz how he would handle stepping into a situation where the council has already laid the groundwork for this shift through its new strategic plan, Dorrell said he would have no problem with jumping into the council’s shifting landscape.
“To me, it means I get to get to work faster,” Dorrell said. “I don’t really feel like ... I need to put my stamp on it and say, ‘This is mine, and I got it across the finish line.’”
Farkas presented after Dorrell, outlining how he hopes to promote “asset-based” economic development that emphasizes developing existing local resources in innovative ways.
When asked how he hopes to promote economic development amid the state’s structural revenue deficits projected for the near future, Farkas said he hopes to shift the council’s approach to be more preemptive.
“Structurally, I think there needs to be some accommodative discussion around what is it that we’re preparing to do, listening to the appetite to expand the structure in a way that allows for conversation around adding or increasing taxes or other ways of driving revenue,” Farkas said.
Farkas, who helped with Mead’s ENDOW initiative, said “there’s a mindset that I believe needs to shift” regarding the state’s economic outlook.
“Until there’s an opportunity to educate our citizens about what it means when these revenue sources go away, then you can’t advance this idea of how we diversify our economy, to think differently about how we think about economic development structurally in the state,” Farkas said.
Echoing the other finalist, Farkas said he wants to help businesses develop a better understanding of how to access capital through the Business Council.
“I’m a bit amazed that a lot of our businesses and communities, they know about grants and loans, but when it comes to how to procure those things, it’s a bit burdensome,” Farkas said.
Before the interviews Wednesday, the finalists met Monday with Gov. Mark Gordon and Tuesday with Wyoming Business Council staff. Before the interviews Wednesday, Goetz said a final decision would probably be announced sometime next week.