Jobs, jobs, jobs.
How do we provide enough jobs for the working people of Wyoming?
A month ago in this space, I wrote about the state’s economy and how to create economic development. It spurred a variety of interesting comments from all over the state. Here are just a few:
Retired publisher Jim Hicks of Buffalo says: “Buffalo has spent thousands on economic development, but with almost no results.
“Health care costs in Wyoming are a third higher than South Dakota. This is probably due to the fact that those states developed regional health care systems. It’s Sioux Falls, Pierre and Rapid City. The rest of the state is served with satellite facilities. We have a lot of smaller hospitals that struggle to maintain surgical centers and specialty services that cause them to bleed red ink.”
Attorney and former legislator Tom Lubnau of Gillette says:
“My theory on government workers is counter-intuitive. Wyoming taxes people from out of state in the form of mineral taxes, and then spreads the wealth around the state based on paying government workers. Those government workers spend money in their local communities, and Wyoming realizes economic development via the multiplier effect.
“Radically cutting government workers will have a dramatic ripple effect through the states economy of 3 to 8 times the government salaries, depending on which economic analysis of the multiplier effect one believes. The Life Resource Center in Lander is a perfect example. If one were deciding which government programs to keep and which ones to cut, the LRC would be the first on the chopping block. But it cannot be closed for fear of the consequences to the Lander community.
“So far, the Legislature has been able to kick the can down the road, but I’ve said in the past, in the battle between perception and reality, reality ultimately wins, and when it does, it usually hurts.”
Cheyenne attorney Larry Wolfe: “You hesitate to put your finger on the real problems: a unitary political view that stifles ideas and innovation; poor leadership of all our major institutions - governor, legislature, university; a belief that many people like Wyoming without more people; and on the slightly decrepit side, the fact that we are price takers, not price makers, that our fate is determined by vast forces beyond our control; an agriculture economy that exists on federal largess; an economic and tax structure that expects others to pay our taxes and that resists all changes to a more updated model.”
Central Wyoming College educator Louisa Hunkerstorm offers: “There is now a statewide attainment council determining strategy for meeting goals. Our people need to be more educated for Wyoming to grow or attract new businesses and for our economy to thrive in a bust-proof way. Those educated people will want to live in places that have amenities, which is why it’s also important to create livable communities that are beautiful and have lots of things to do. And we will need a new tax structure to support all of this; we can’t continue to rely on taxes from a single, dying industry to support our state.”
Parker Jackson of Mountain View offers his opinions:
“The most important point is the size of Wyoming’s government. I have been told that we have the second largest government footprint in the entire Western hemisphere – next to Cuba. One key difference is that Wyoming also has one of the largest sovereign wealth funds. We have $30 billion in the bank. How much of that would it take to spark the economy if a portion of it were returned to the taxpayer?
“What if we had robust trade schools and other specialized institutions of higher ed that could both compete with and complement UW, which has a stranglehold on higher education and therefore the labor market in Wyoming?”
Former publisher Dave Simpson says: “Here in Cheyenne, from what I’ve seen over the last 13 years, we’re pretty much recession-proof. The only thing better than being a college town is being a state capital, with a military base thrown in, the railroad, warehouses attracted by the intersection of two interstates, and pretty effective economic development efforts. We’re also benefiting from the crazy Colorado Front Range growth.
“Folks move up here for the lower taxes and to get away from the horrible traffic on I-25. I have a neighbor with a cabin here, who lives in Denver. He says fighting the traffic almost makes it not worth coming up.”