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Wyoming: Looking for Economic Growth Through Wind Power

Dec/Jan 10
Wyoming's unemployment rate has been rising, from 3.2 percent in September 2008 to 6.8 percent in September 2009, but the good news is it's not nearly as high as the national average of 10.0 percent (as of November 2009). The hardest hit industries in the state have been construction and natural resources and mining. The natural resources and mining industry lost 6,000 jobs and construction lost 4,600 jobs. The Wyoming Economic Analysis Division reported that the state's economy, as a result of the downturn in energy exploration, most notably natural gas production, was dragged into the recession earlier in 2009 - one year after the U.S. recession began.

Wyoming is also dealing with revenue decreases for the 2011-2012 biennium, by as much as an additional $300 million to $400 million, according to projects from state's Consensus Revenue Estimating Group. Governor Dave Freudenthal has said that cities and towns, capital construction and highways would see limited funding compared to the previous year's biennium.

But there's good new, too. Wyoming ranked fourth in the annual report by Pollina Corporate Real Estate for 2009 Top Pro-Business States. The study of job retention and creation evaluates the 50 states and the federal government based on thirty-three factors, including taxes, right-to-work legislation, energy costs, incentive programs and workers' compensation laws.

The wind industry has been getting a lot of attention in the state. While many companies have their sights set on the state to harvest wind to generate electricity, the governor expects companies to address several issues, not just turbines. In an address to the Wyoming Wind Symposium, he said the state would be glad to host wind turbines, but "we expect the people who come to Wyoming and put up wind turbines - we expect them to do a little more. We expect them to talk about manufacturing plants being in Wyoming, we expect construction facilities to be in Wyoming, and we expect the jobs to be in Wyoming. It isn't the case that we're going to be some colony that's going to be really happy to have a bunch of towers sticking up in the air and no jobs." The state also held an energy symposium to address energy issues in the western states.

Another area of the job market that is expected to see an increase is transportation, specifically truck driving. According to A Closer at Occupational Projections for Wyoming, 2006-2016, a report by the Wyoming Labor Force Trends, "drivers of heavy and tractor-trailer trucks are projected to see the highest net growth of all occupations in Wyoming over the next seven years." The report indicates that about 1,842 truck drivers will be added to the employment rolls through 2016, an increase of nearly 30 percent from the 2006 level.

Also on the transportation front, five Wyoming airports are getting upgrades compliments of $2.8 million in grants from the Federal Aviation Administration. The Evanston, Rawlings, Rock Springs, Sheridan, and Torrington airports will receive funding, according to Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi's office.

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