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Wyoming legislature passes bills promoting innovation, economic diversification

March 22, 2018

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead has approved legislation that will help promote economic diversification through innovation in a state that has relied heavily on a relatively small number of resource-based industries. Mead recently signed multiple pieces of legislation that comprise ENDOW (Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming), a 20-year initiative focused on diversifying and growing the state’s economy. Notable bills include Senate File 118, which will establish a dedicated organization to support Wyoming’s entrepreneurs and provide funds to innovative startups, and Senate File 119, which will establish a dedicated fund for workforce training in economic sectors considered a priority for the state.

As described last month, proposed ENDOW initiatives ranged from infrastructure, to workforce, to technology-based economic development.  Senate File 118 includes $5 million for a new program called startup:Wyoming and an additional $6 million for a research and innovation fund, which will provide matching grants to attract federal R&D funding. Additional ENDOW measures passed by the legislature include:

  • Senate File 29 will add computer science to the state’s educational program. The bill makes Wyoming the country’s first state to require all schools to offer computer science education.
  • Senate File 40 will support the state’s efforts to grow and expand air service throughout the state. The bill allows the Wyoming Department of Transportation’s Aeronautics Division to contract with one airline to provide more direct flights to major airport hubs.
  • Senate File 100 will establish a broadband coordinator, advisory council, and grant fund to better connect more parts of the state with reliable high-speed internet.
  • Senate File 108 will provide funds to expand the state’s agriculture marketing program and hire an international trade representative.

Finally, five bills would lay the foundation for Wyoming to lead in the development and implementation of virtual currencies and blockchain technology. House Bill 101 allows Wyoming corporations to create blockchains. House Bill 126 allows for the development of “series LLCs,” a preferable structure of cryptocurrencies. House Bill 70 exempts cryptocurrencies from state securities regulations, and Senate File 111 exempts them from Wyoming state property taxes. Meanwhile, House Bill 19 amends the state’s money transmission laws which had previously prevented the effective operation of cryptocurrency exchanges.

Microsoft specifically cited the ENDOW initiative and its potential long-term impact on the state’s economy when they announced this week that Cheyenne would be one of five cities receiving investments through its TechSpark program.

On March 21, the ENDOW Executive Council will meet to discuss next steps and receive reports from the five economic engine subcommittees.  


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