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Wyoming Economic Development Fueled By Wind Technologies, Other Energy Production

Mali R. Schantz-Feld (Dec/Jan 09)
Mark Willis, chief operating officer for the Wyoming Business Council, says that one of the most important long-term developments this year is the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) sponsored primarily by the National Science Foundation, to be built just outside of Cheyenne. The center is expected to house some of the world's most powerful supercomputers in order to advance understanding of climate, weather, and other Earth and atmospheric processes. "In terms of long-term projects, this development has opened a lot of people's eyes that broadband and power are here in Wyoming," says Willis. "Now that we have this demonstrable project, we are getting more interest from data centers."

 Even though other aspects of the economy are growing, "energy is king here and will be for some time," says Willis. Wind ranks among the most active energy sectors. Approximately 25 different wind projects are either recently completed, under construction, or in the permitting stage. He says that electric and gas transmission pipelines are underway to deliver energy products, as well as coal gasification and coal-to-clean diesel projects. GE Energy has signed with the University of Wyoming for the development of an advanced gasification research and technology center for research in advanced gasification methods for Power River Basin and other state coals.

The Equality State is also developing its reputation abroad. Willis reports that a German company is expected to announce a new location in Cheyenne in January for a project related to robotics systems and adhesives for cars and appliances. Preliminary plans include establishing a sales and service division and then later adding some manufacturing. Prospects for biotechnology projects are expected to visit the state later in 2009. Willis says that visits from German representatives have also resulted in a partnership between the University of Wyoming College of Business and Pforzheim University School of Business and Law in Germany to exchange faculty and students.

"Our incentives include grants that we make to local cities and counties that either provide infrastructure or build facilities," says Willis. "Right now we do about $50 million a year in those grants." Community enhancement also is a focus, with grants geared towards amenities such as new civic centers and child care centers for city dwellers. In 2008, the Western Rural Development Center reported that between 1980 and 2006, the state's population grew by 9.7 percent. Development plans include attracting and retaining a work force whose families will grow along with the state. Education is a high priority for attracting young, skilled employees, so, says Willis, "investment in education from kindergarten through 12th grade is a top priority."
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