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Our Old Wyoming is changing into New Wyoming right under our noses


No, I am not running for any political office, but lately we have been all over Wyoming and what we have seen is very impressive.

In Gillette for a state tourism summit, we heard Mary Silvernell of the Campbell County Lodging Board say that lodging tax receipts are at “an all-time high.” It is not tourists who are filling all those hotel rooms, but workers in the oil and gas industry.

It appears the Powder River Basin is enjoying that similar kind of boom as that is occurring up north in the North Dakota Bakken Formation, yet it is relatively unknown around the state that this is happening.

Four more hotels are on the drawing board in Gillette as folks scramble to serve those needs.

Some 350 miles southwest of Gillette, I sat in the office of Rock Springs Chamber Manager Dave Hanks four days later and he told me he has verified that $1.5 billion in new construction is either planned or underway for their area. That is BILLION, not million.

Among the biggest is a $400 million ammonia plant by Simplot being developed.

Two weeks earlier, I happened to be in Cheyenne and their newest community booster Pat Schmidt (formerly of Thermopolis) gave me a tour of all the incredible development around the Capitol City.

The Swan Ranch rail terminal with all of its associated development should be the biggest deal down there. But I must admit that seeing all the computer power being assembled by Microsoft and NCAR was breathtaking.

It was fun also chatting with Shawn Reese, the new CEO of the Wyoming Business Council.

He seems to be fitting well into his new job and believes, as I am starting to, that our state truly is diversifying its economy from just being the energy breadbasket of the country.

So again back to Sweetwater County, my son Mike and I were having lunch at Mark and Nancy Anselmi’s Outlaw Inn. In walked Reese with Pat Robbins, the long-time and very capable SW regional worker for the business council.

Reese was doing what he earlier had told me about. He was touring the state getting a feel for what is happening. Both he and Robbins said the same thing that Chamber Exec Hanks had told me earlier. Although Wyoming, as a whole has its ups and downs, it seems like Sweetwater County just keeps growing.

Hanks also said there is a need for 600 more skilled employees in the Rock Springs area.

Despite being on the road so much, I did spend some time back home in Fremont County.

While in Lander, U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi and his wife Diana came by. Enzi is enjoying the campaign and has decided to make it a working tour of the state. He is touring places that employ people and also touring places that educate workers.

In both cases, he has been amazingly impressed. And yet, there are good jobs going begging.

In Riverton, ground has been broken for the new Job Corps Center, which was a huge project almost totally dependent on Enzi’s good work in Congress.

Enzi also chuckled over his being named the “nicest” senator, which was no surprise to those of us who know him.

Also, in Riverton, I ran into Convenience Store owner and Tire Retailer Mike Bailey who missed a meeting I was attending because a key employee was gone. He lamented the difficulty of finding and hiring good folks.

Three weeks ago I was in Carbon County attending a United Way fundraiser and got to talk with some folks down there. A big Walmart in Rawlins is almost finished, which has some local businesses nervous. Rawlins just finished an $8 million Career and Technical Education Center. Very nice. It’s headed by Dave Throgmorton.

And speaking of higher education, let’s meander back to Gillette.

Like most Wyoming folks, I assumed the new Gillette College was a couple of rooms in a downtown building.

Not quite.

It sits on one of the most beautiful campuses in the state. Its CEO, Mark Englert, said the average age of their students is 24, much lower than the ages of the students at the rest of Wyoming’s community colleges.

Elegant, functional, and spectacular would be words I would use to describe this amazing campus. Those folks do it right up there in Campbell County.

What I have written here just scratches the surface of what I found traveling the state. Stay tuned. There is more coming.

Check out Bill Sniffin’s columns at He is a longtime Wyoming journalist from Lander who has written five books. His most recent book is “MY WYOMING 101 Special Places,”which will be out Nov. 29th.


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