It’s been a tough few years for Laramie.

State budget cuts caused the city to keep at least 20 employee positions vacant, and the University of Wyoming lost several hundred positions through layoffs and attrition, according to Mayor Andrea Summerville.

Now the city’s facing another economic blow: WyoTech, a vocational school that offers automotive and diesel technology programs, plans to close its doors.

“They are a major employer and they bring a lot of students to town,” said Summerville.

Zenith Education Group, a career education provider that owns the institute, released a statement Wednesday explaining that 21 of its campuses, including WyoTech, will cease enrollment. Current students will finish up their classes.

“It has become evident to us that many of our campuses are located in areas that are geographically inconvenient for under-served students or not built to accommodate the programs that we want and need to offer,” Zenith said in its statement. “We intend to use those learnings in a more focused three-campus approach to enhance initiatives.”

The campuses that will remain open are in Florida, Georgia and Texas.

Summerville said she was surprised by the announcement and will need more details about the closure’s timeline before she can fully discuss its potential impact or the city’s next steps.

The school has approximately 65 employees and 360 students, according to a campus official.

The local business community, from restaurants to apartment complexes, will likely be affected by the closure if students and faculty move elsewhere, said JJ Harris, president and CEO of the Laramie Chamber Business Alliance.

However, Harris said he believes another company will be interested in purchasing the facility.

“I would hope that the transition would be almost instantaneous,” he said.

Stating that he was caught off guard by the announcement, Harris added the alliance will be holding two meetings next week to discuss the issue.

Laramie resident and retired teacher Jan Hanson said she’ll be sorry to see the center close. There aren’t enough schools that focus on vocational training, she said.

WyoTech students also frequently volunteer for community service activities, according to both Summerville and Hanson. By serving meals at soup kitchens and pitching in on community cleanup days, the students make the city a better place to live.

“I think Laramie as a community is going to miss that,” said Hanson.

Representatives for WyoTech could not be reached for comment by press time.

Zenith purchased WyoTech in 2015. The school’s previous owner, Corinthian Colleges, sold WyoTech after being accused of altering grades and student attendance records, and falsifying job placement data.

Katie King covers the city of Casper.