City Corner: “State of the City” Address
by Sheridan Mayor Dave Kinskey
February 21, 2012
Council President Bigelow, Council Vice President Webster, my fellow council members, friends – welcome this evening and thank you for coming.
In 1895 the pioneers who settled Sheridan were concerned about building a new economy, literally, from the ground up. This 117-year-old brochure shows that they came together as a community to decide for themselves what kinds of businesses and jobs they wanted for Sheridan.
This is what they decided Sheridan needed: a creamery, a packing house, a steam laundry, a beet sugar factory, and a brick and tile factory.
Through a united, determined effort, they eventually succeeded in obtaining all of these businesses in the community. They represented the leading businesses of the late 19th and early 20th century – but are now all gone.
Today, in that same spirit of the pioneers, Sheridan has again come together to promote the right kind of economic development for our community. This brochure (see cover following) has been developed through the collabotion of an economic development task force consisting of the City, the County, Forward Sheridan, the Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Sheridan Association, the North Main Neighborhood Association, the College, internet provider ACT and the Wyoming Business Council. Together, we have identified the work to be done, and have divided up the tasks to make it happen.
Of course we want to encourage and support our current industries: agriculture, travel and tourism and energy. And, like the pioneers of long ago, we want to add onto that base the development of businesses for the future.
So, with assistance from the Wyoming Business Council, we have identified the types of jobs we want for Sheridan’s future – jobs of the 21st century. They are: Information/Data Services, Professional/Management Services, Small/Back Office, Light Manufacturing, Creative/Western Arts, and Active/Western Recreation.
These businesses were selected after listening to Sheridan employers and residents and gathering extensive data. First, there are in fact businesses of each of these types already operating and growing in Sheridan. The fact they find this a natural home makes them a sure fit for encouraging their expansion. Second, these are jobs that have what the study authors call a “low head count” – that is, small work places that can fit nicely within the community. Third, they will bring much needed diversity to our job base. The more types of industry we have, the less prone we are to the roller coaster of the boom and bust cycle that has plagued Sheridan – and Wyoming – for so much of our history.
When I was in high school in Sheridan, a common lament was that Sheridan’s greatest export was its children – that there were too few jobs and too little opportunity. Today we are still talking about jobs and economic development, but the conversation has changed in a key respect. We have some successes. We have many things underway as a community to help us take control of our economic future.
There are three key components to economic development. Perhaps you could describe them as three legs of the stool. The first leg is that of education. The second leg is that of entrepreneurial culture. The third leg is quality of life. That stool in turn sets upon the foundation of our infrastructure – our streets, our sewer system and our water lines.
Let us look at each of these critical success factors in turn. The first leg of the stool is education. The key to a more prosperous economy is growth in educational opportunity and attainment.
In Sheridan, we are blessed with a great educational system at the K-12 levels as well as with Sheridan College.
The record nationally shows that the communities that have avoided economic slides have done so – in significant part – because of a determined effort to partner with their local educational institutions.
We know that we have had success in attracting business to Sheridan because of programs that exist at the high school and college in computerized light manufacturing. As my coach at Sheridan high school used to say, “That play worked so well, let’s run it again.”
It must also be noted that part of the success of attracting new light manufacturing rests with the Whitney Foundation, which gave over half a million dollars to Sheridan College for state of the art, computer-controlled light manufacturing equipment.
We are so blessed in this community with so many foundations playing an active role in building our futures and improving our lives.
A recent front page article from a national newspaper speaks of highly-skilled jobs going unfilled – in a time of high unemployment. Sheridan shares this problem. Our existing local employers too have openings they cannot fill due to a lack of trained personnel. This need for skilled trades people and technicians can only be filled through education. The outcome? Better jobs, better pay and greater prosperity for the community.
We know from our personal experience there are many people in Sheridan who are either under employed or unemployed by choice because they cannot find the right kind of work.
A job development study by the Wyoming Business Council confirmed this and said, “These individuals would benefit through training initiatives that enhance their skills in high demand occupations.”
Strengthening our partnerships with education is key to our economic success.
The second leg of the economic development stool is that of entrepreneurial culture. The entrepreneurial spirit is the spirit of the west: that of independence, risk taking and a can-do, positive attitude.
It is well known that the great engine of job growth in the United States is small business. Nowhere is that more true than in Sheridan. Locally owned and operated small businesses are the backbone of job creation here.
Business, in turn, relies upon our educational system for a talented workforce – upon our quality of life to retain that talent in our community – and upon City Hall to provide the necessary infrastructure.
In addition, businesses must know that government will work with it in building jobs in Sheridan.
We have worked hard over the last eight years as a team to bring that same entrepreneurial “can do” spirit to government. Through a partnership of local businesses and City Hall we have engaged in a steady process of improving the job-friendliness – and efficiency – of City Hall. We have implemented ninety five recommendations to streamline our building and development processes. Among these: cross training all of our building department personnel to save hundreds (or more) of inspections annually; making city hall a “one stop shop” for building permits; and, revising our codes to make them more clear for the development community. Other departments, as well, have undertaken initiatives to reduce costs and improve service.
We live by the adage “the biggest room is the room for improvement.” At City Hall we will continue in an entrepreneurial “can do” spirit to improve our service.
The third leg of the stool is our quality of life. It is through our quality of life that we retain the citizens – and employers – who value Sheridan.
Look at all that we have and hold dear: the Senior Center, the WYO Theater and Civic Theater Guild, our Main Street, our parks, our pathways, our open spaces, our dog parks, the Bighorns, hunting, fishing, skiing, camping. The Goose Creek restoration projects and the extension of our pathway system have been greatly received precisely because Sheridan people so value the outdoors. And, in preserving these gems, we honor our history. After all, General Crook first camped in Sheridan because of the natural beauty and the abundance of the Goose Creeks.
Our quality of life and job development go together hand in hand. Without jobs people could not afford to live here to enjoy all that we have. And, if we sacrificed quality of life we’d lose so much that we hold dear. We can “have it all” – jobs AND quality of life.
This three legged stool of job development – education, entrepreneurial culture and quality of life – must stand on a solid foundation. Jesus said you cannot build on weak and shifting sands.
In Sheridan, that foundation is our infrastructure – our streets, our water lines, our sewer lines. Homes, businesses – civilization itself – depend upon the sort of civil engineering projects that have been the focus of so much of our efforts over the last eight years. Our infrastructure efforts have extended as well to a dramatic extension of our recycling programs, and the revitalization of North Main.
We have also established a high tech business park, modeled on successful economic development in other Wyoming communities. We have done this through a public private partnership with Neltje, the Wrench Ranch and Butch Jellis – with the support of the Wyoming Business Council, our legislators and Wyoming’s top elected officials. Hats off to these folks for their faith in Sheridan’s future.
At the height of the boom, when we were in the midst of laying the foundations for these many economic development efforts, there were those who questioned the wisdom of doing so. I said then – we know from Wyoming’s history that bust follows boom. We have made as much progress as we have because we started this work years ago.
In the last eight years our economy has gone from boom to bust. Our families, businesses and government have gone through painful belt tightening.
In Wyoming – unlike the federal government – we cannot print money. We are required by the constitution to balance our budgets. Washington could learn much from Wyoming. Difficult as those decisions are, in the end they must be made.
I commend every city employee for doing more – with less. Essential services continue to be delivered to our citizens.
The national economy is slowly recovering and we hope to see the same here in Sheridan. In the meantime, we need to continue our job improvement efforts so that when the turnaround finally comes, we can take full advantage of it.
As we look to the future there are so many great things happening in Sheridan. Let us resolve – in the spirit of our pioneer founders — that we shall work together ever more closely…
…to build upon the successes we’ve had…
…to secure for our families the kind of prosperous future they deserve…
…while preserving for them our great quality of life.
Ladies and gentlemen thank you for your time and attention. May God bless us all.
Posted in the following categories: About Sheridan County, Economic & Business Development