Did you know we have about 75 manufacturers in Sheridan County? That’s according to the 2016/2017 Wyoming Manufacturers Directory produced by the Wyoming Business Report and Manufacturing Works and includes crop and animal production. I was surprised to see that there are so many here in our community. In looking at the types of manufacturing we have, I was also surprised to find that manufacturing has become far more diverse, cutting edge and innovative than I realized.

The simple definition of manufacturing is taking raw materials and transforming them into something else. But manufacturing today is anything but simple. Manufacturing jobs in the U.S. have mostly evolved from tedious and repetitive to complex, highly-skilled careers that require advanced math education, the ability to operate complex machinery and knowledge about maximizing efficiency. Manufacturers and their employees must be innovative and forward thinking. These employees also tend to increase jobs in the community’s restaurants, retail and other customer service businesses as well, making them key elements to the economic strength of the region.

According to the Wyoming Business Council, manufacturing is a $2.4 billion industry in the state and accounts for 5.3 percent of the state’s gross domestic product. Not accounting for crop and animal production, manufacturing in Sheridan County provides 506 jobs. Those jobs — paying an average of $51,544 per year — have increased 23 percent over the past 10 years, according to EMSI Analyst’s report for the Northern Wyoming Community College District.

With the recent announcement that the Wyoming Business Council board recommended a $4.2 million Business Ready Community grant and loan package to the Sheridan Economic and Educational Development Authority, even more manufacturing jobs are slated for Sheridan County. The package will fund SEEDA’s plans to build a 40,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in the Sheridan Hi-Tech Park. Local manufacturer Vacutech will lease the building and anticipates creating 76 new jobs in the next five years.

If you’re as curious as I am to learn more about our manufacturers in Sheridan County, you’ll get your chance. The Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce’s Business Retention and Expansion Committee is working with interested manufacturers to compile a schedule of tours and special events for the sixth annual Manufacturing Day on Oct. 6.

These celebrations provide opportunities for the public to learn about the variety of products being made right here in Sheridan County. Learn about the people and the stories behind these products, see first-hand how manufacturing has changed and help inspire our next generation of manufacturers through this opportunity to see behind the scenes.

The Chamber’s Business Retention and Expansion Committee will provide a complete schedule of Manufacturing Day events for Sheridan County soon. Check local media or visit www.sheridanwyomingchamber.org for details. Join us Oct. 6 as we celebrate our manufacturing businesses and employees in Sheridan County!

Jodi Hartley is the director of marketing and communications for the Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce.

[This article was originally published in the Sept. 22, 2017, edition of The Sheridan Press in the Community Perspectives section]