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Council, governor request nearly $40 million to support Wyoming’s economic growth, diversification

January 04, 2018
By: Jonathan Dworin

The executive council of ENDOW, an economic development initiative started by Wyoming governor Matt Mead, has announced its preliminary recommendations to diversify and grow the state’s economy, including statewide programs to support tech-based economic development that total more than $36 million. Notable among the recommendations are $6 million for a proposed Wyoming Research and Innovation Fund that provides matching funds as a way to leverage federal R&D opportunities and $5 million to develop a new organization called Startup:Wyoming, which would administer the Fund and provide support to entrepreneurs throughout the state.

ENDOW, which stands for Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming, was announced by the governor in November 2016, approved by the state’s legislature in February 2017, and received $1 million in the FY 2017-2018 budget to develop the strategy. In his FY 2018-2019 budget released last November, Gov. Mead requested $37.5 million for ENDOW from the state’s Legislative Stabilization Reserve Account. The executive council’s recommendations contain approximately $36.4 million in funding requests, more than $1 million less than the governor’s proposal.

The recommendations with the largest funding requests are both infrastructure related. They include improving and expanding Wyoming’s commercial air service ($15 million) and improving the state’s access to broadband and technology ($10.4 million).

Among the recommendations, multiple have no requests for additional funding. Examples include an initiative to provide equitable opportunities for students to learn computer science, improving higher education attainment and graduate retention, and establishing in-state contractor preferences for state technology contract. A recommendation to allocate resources for workforce training suggests an investment request is pending further discussions.

In addition to their recommendations, the executive council requests $20 million to be invested in the Startup:Wyoming Fund, allocated from the Permanent Wyoming Mineral Trust Fund. This Fund would be used to invest in promising technology startups and to potentially attract startups from other states. Mead’s request of $37.5 million seemingly does not include this additional funding, The Sheridan Press writes.

The council also encourages research and development in high-growth, high-potential industries, such as block chain, vertical takeoff and landing technology, and wind energy. More recommendations will be unveiled throughout 2018.

“These preliminary findings represent just that and are only a first step in a long-term process to achieve meaningful and sustainable results for the state of Wyoming,” ENDOW Vice Chairman Bill Schilling said in a press release

For the past 20 years, the Wyoming Business Council has coordinated the majority of the state’s economic development activities.  As is often the case when governors introduce new economic development initiatives, there is likely to be increased inquiry into the effectiveness of previous programs and organizations. In an article in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, Wyoming Business Council CEO Shawn Reese notes that such scrutiny is expected, but that “lawmakers need to understand the interrelationship and distinction between ENDOW and the Business Council, as some seem to confuse one as a replacement for the other.”  

Wyomingstate tbed, startups, economic development