EVANSTON — The long-awaited market study report prepared by Thomas P. Miller & Associates was revealed to the public at a meeting on April 29, at the Portland Rose Room of the Roundhouse.
The Uinta County Economic Development Commission along with south Lincoln County hired the Miller consulting firm last year to do extensive research of the regional economy, evaluate local resources, compile data from local interviews and develop a strategy for southwest Wyoming for recruitment and development of targeted industries. The study was partially paid for by a $50,000 grant from the State Loan and Investment Board, though both counties had to match a portion of the grant.
Commission chair Brent Hatch opened the meeting by introducing the steering committee appointed by the commission to work with the Miller associates and review the report prior to revealing it to the public. Those committee members are Brent Hatch, Owen Peterson, Eric Mander, Tib Ottley, Elaina Zempel of the Wyoming Business Council, Evanston Community Development Coordinator Mieke Madrid, and Kemmerer City Administrator Brian Muir.
Hatch thanked Candi DeCoite’s culinary arts class from Horizon High School for providing the refreshments. He then turned the time over to Brian Points, the representative from Thomas P. Miller & Associates.
Points started his presentation by stating there had been six months of work to complete the end product of 150-plus pages. He thanked the commission and the people of Evanston for their cooperation and support.
Points said that there are 12,956 people who live and work in Uinta and south Lincoln counties. Of that number, 3,154 workers commute out of Uinta County to Sweetwater and Lincoln counties. From Lincoln county, workers commute to Teton and Uinta counties. The result is that 548 available workers in Uinta and south Lincoln work outside of those boundaries. The majority of those out-commuting workers — 340 —are in the construction and extraction industries.
Points said there has been a boom and bust pattern in the area for 50 to 100 years and the Miller study points to diversification in order to grow. The study also found that one-fourth of the population base is 55 or older.
The study looked at the industry sectors already existing in the two counties, which are government, retail, health care, social services, mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction. It also identified job gainers as being in arts and entertainment, recreation, hotel and food services, transportation and warehousing. Those areas losing jobs were identified as construction, mining, quarrying, oil and gas, professional, scientific and technical services.
“The mission of economic development is to enhance, not detract from, local economy and develop a cluster-based approach,” Points said. “Southwest Wyoming needs industry diversification.”
Miller & Associates identified six areas of review in searching for industries to target for southwest Wyoming. Those areas are: employment needs and earnings, available local resources needed including transportation, recent and projected growth of the industry, community support for the industry supply chains — including what is missing in surrounding areas such as Rock Springs and Salt Lake City, the needed gaps and, finally, looking at national and Wyoming trends in industry.
The report included 21 targeted industries in three areas: industrial, services and tourism. Points then highlighted the top choices and for each targeted industry he provided the strengths and challenges involved and potential development sites in Uinta and Lincoln counties. They also provided information for companies potentially interested in expanding globally.
The top choices in the industrial area were blockchain processing, downstream chemical product manufacturing, aerospace parts, wind turbine manufacturing, manufacturing of mining and oil and gas machinery, and firearms and ammunition manufacturing.
In the service area their first choice was back office, which includes call centers. They also suggested retirement communities and computer design services, among others.
Under the targeted tourism area the top suggestions were fossil hunting and a boutique hotel.
Points then turned the time over to Brock Naylor, who attended the meeting via speaker phone, to discuss the brand and logo they had created for southwest Wyoming.
Branding and logo
The brand that Miller & Associates suggested for marketing the two counties is “The Wasatch Frontier.” Naylor said the regional strengths identified are location, the area is business-friendly, has outdoor recreation and tourism opportunities, and both Kemmerer and Evanston have a small downtown persona.
Need for urgency
“You need to act now,” Naylor said. “Get the community on board with the branding and imaging. Invest in the logo with signage in retail, restaurants, parks and trails and greenspace. Develop your assets now.”
In a Herald interview with Brent Hatch later in the week he reported that the Portland Rose Room was half full of people interested in hearing the report. He said those attending were representatives from city government, community members, business owners, the Evanston Chamber of Commerce and most of the Uinta County Economic Development Commission members. Hatch noted that none of the Uinta County commissioners were in attendance.
According to Hatch, the entire report will be on the Uinta County website soon so the public will have access to it. He said the representatives from Thomas P. Miller had presented the information in Kemmerer earlier the same day.
Hatch agreed that action needs to happen quickly. He said a first step will be to ask for volunteers among commission members to form committees for each target area identified in the Miller report. The committee will be responsible to define their focus, research, investigate and report back to the commission. He said the commission needs to give concrete direction and create a checklist for those volunteer committees.
When he first heard Points and Naylor discuss the logo and brand they had developed, Hatch admitted he didn’t like it, but said that the more he thought about it the more “The Wasatch Frontier” made sense to him. Hatch went on to say that our area needs to be involved with the Wasatch Front.
“We are the crossroads,” Hatch said. “We need to change the perception of the people in Utah about southwest Wyoming. The perception of people in Utah is that we are a long distance away. It probably takes a commuter in Utah longer to get to work every day than the short time it takes to get to [southwest Wyoming]. We also need to change their view of business in Wyoming and capitalize on our low tax rates. So we need to change perceptions on distance and business.
“The Thomas P. Miller report is worth the price we paid if we take it to the next step,” Hatch said. “It’s not worth it if it sits on a shelf.”