The State Loan and Investment Board on Thursday awarded a $13 million grant to Cheyenne LEADS to buy one facility and build another for firearms manufacturer Magpul.
“We watched the Colorado anti-gun legislation. Everyone and their mom saw this opportunity,” said Laramie County Board of Commissioners Vice Chairman Troy Thompson, a project backer. “With the publicity, it’s easy to see why the county is supporting this project.”
Magpul announced its intentions to move to Wyoming early this year. The Cheyenne economic development organization – Cheyenne LEADS – will use the loan to buy a 67,000-square-foot building to temporarily house Magpul while they build a 108,000-square-foot facility.
Some state representatives were not convinced giving private businesses grants was the right way to use state money.
“As we continually hand out this money, there are other public entities that are going without,” said Rep. Allen Jaggi, R-Uinta.
Wyoming Business Council CEO Bob Jensen emphasized the potential domino effect of bringing in Magpul, and the economic boost it will provide the state.
“At the end of the day this matches Wyoming culture and increases manufacturing and it’s building on an industry that’s important to our state and advances the rest of the people in business here already.”
The Wyoming Business Council recommended an $8 million grant and $5 million loan for the project at its December meeting, but a budget footnote “oversight” meant legally the funding could only come via grants.
In order to avoid making claims on money for the next two-year budget, which the Legislature has not approved yet, the Business Council had to do some maneuvering.
The Legislature provided the governor a $15 million pool of money for this two-year budget period. That money is supposed to be used for large infrastructure projects, like the two facilities planned for Magpul, at the governor’s discretion.
The Business Council often uses grant-loan packages to support infrastructure and job creation projects, but a footnote in the governor’s account left out the word loan.
“I’m just sad we’re in this position where we’re forced by legislative whim to have to do this,” State Treasurer Mark Gordon said.
The upshot is the State Loan and Investment Board gave Cheyenne LEADS $13 million in grant money out of that account, leaving the other $2 million, plus the $6.4 million left in the Business Council’s regular account – for two more projects considered Thursday.
The city of Cheyenne will get a $2 million grant and $3 million loan package to connect two rails and bring a California-based steel tubing manufacturer to the Swan Ranch Industrial Park south of Cheyenne.
The Swan Ranch Industrial Park is home to 13 businesses, including the Cheyenne Rail Hub, which moves crude oil. The rail connection will allow that business to expand, and Searing Industries’ 200,000-square-foot facility will be the largest rail in the region.
“There’s not many places where you have access to both rail lines,” State Auditor Cynthia Cloud said after the meeting. “That can really give Wyoming businesses a competitive advantage in their pricing and delivery method.”
That grant will consume the last of the governor’s account for this two-year budget. The loan will come from the Business Council’s regular pool of money.
There is still $900,000 left in the account after the Investment Board approved a $2.5 million loan for a Casper infrastructure project intended to support a luxury hotel and conference center and other development.
The Investment board consists of Gov. Matt Mead, Secretary of State Max Maxfield, Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill, Gordon and Cloud.