Economic experts presented their snapshots of the Wyoming economy to audiences in 12 Wyoming towns in the past two weeks, moving what had been a Casper and Cheyenne show onto the road.
The speakers invited by forum host Wyoming Business Alliance all described Wyoming’s economy as prospering, but with a need for more economic diversity.
Bill Schilling, president of the alliance, said that the group first offered an economic forum in Casper in 1996. People had to travel from around the state to attend. Then the alliance included a Cheyenne forum.
But Schilling said the alliance realized it could reach more people by traveling to them.
“We said, ‘Why are the big meetings always in Casper and Cheyenne?’ In the past it was expected that participants would come here; we decided to go to them,” he said.
Schilling said that he invites the speakers to go “on the road,” which expands the discussion on the economy to include a broader range of participants. He said this year’s forums included a stop at a high school economics class in Pinedale and attendees from businesses including local retail, banking, trona, coal and restaurants.
This year the traveling forums attracted about 800 total attendees — more than double the crowd that the previous, centrally located forums brought in.
Those who attended the forums heard from Scott Anderson, chief economist of Bank of the West; Howard Benson, an Atlanta economic development consultant; and Anne Alexander, from the University of Wyoming.
Benson said at the Casper forum that Wyoming has “the right business climate” with no personal income tax. He said said that the state will benefit from such programs as the Hathaway scholarships and aggressive “salesmanship” of the state by Gov. Matt Mead.
Participants were polled on what they considered the major issues facing Wyoming. The top state issue for them was energy production, followed by the health of the state’s roads and bridges and the need for local government support.