Community survey will provide direction for economic development organizations

SHERIDAN — A short three-question survey could play a major role in helping local economic development organizations develop a vision for the future of Sheridan.

The Thrive 2035 Community Survey — a joint project between the Wyoming Business Council and the Sheridan Economic Development Task Force — is intended as a way to provide direction for the city of Sheridan, Sheridan County and a variety of economic development nonprofits as they work to make the community a better place, longtime task force member Robert Briggs said.

“One of the things that is really important for those engaging in economic development is to understand what the community needs and wants,” Briggs said. “Our hopes with this survey is to capture what the residents of the community are hoping for and what they want to aspire for. And then we can use that information to guide us into the future.”

The survey asks just three simple questions, task force member Scot Rendall said: “What do you value about your community?” “What do you value about the Sheridan area?” “What would you like to see in the future?”

“The goal of the survey is to get the pulse of the community in regards to what is going well in terms of amenities and things people enjoy, as well as things people think could be improved,” Rendall said. “It’s a chance to reflect on what we have, what we need and what still needs to be addressed.”

The Wyoming Business Council conducts similar surveys throughout the state, Rendall said, and occasionally they reveal unexpected needs.

“I know Gillette recently had a survey, and one of the big priorities to come out of that was the need for more public transportation: a better bus system and increased bike paths,” Rendall said. “I know that took a lot of people in that community by surprise. That’s really the value of these surveys: you might get responses back that you hadn’t even thought of before.”

The last time a survey was conducted in Sheridan by the Wyoming Business Council was in 2004, Briggs said. That 18-year-old survey led to some major changes in the community, Briggs said.

“One of the concerns that emerged (in the 2004 survey) was a concern about affordable housing,” Briggs said. “And out of that survey, the Sheridan Housing Action Committee was created, and state dollars were used to set up the affordable housing loan fund. So that’s an example of a need that was called out by survey responses and pulled forward by community stakeholders.”

While the nonprofit Sheridan Housing Action Committee closed its doors nearly 10 years ago, affordable housing has remained a topic of discussion and concern in Sheridan.

The task force just began collecting survey responses and will continue to do so through October, Rendall said. But a first wave of roughly 100 survey responses during the 3rd Thursday street festival last week gave a taste of what task force members can expect from the responses.

“At 3rd Thursday, a lot of people were saying they like Sheridan the way it is, and they definitely don’t want lots of new development,” Rendall said. “I think everybody realized that smart development, and growing while retaining the quality of life and amenities we have today, is important.”

In addition to the survey, community input will also be solicited through listening sessions tentatively scheduled for Nov. 2 and 3.  The task force’s goal is to have a final document that can steer and shape economic development decisions at the local level by the end of 2022, Rendall said.

Community members can take the Thrive 2035 community survey online at Physical surveys are also available at the Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Sheridan Association offices and will be available at upcoming 3rd Thursday events on Aug. 18 and Sept. 15 in downtown Sheridan.

The survey is a project of the Sheridan Economic Development Task Force, which includes representatives from the city of Sheridan, the Downtown Sheridan Association, Impact 307, the Sheridan Economic and Educational Development Authority, Sheridan College, Sheridan County, the Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce and Sheridan County Travel and Tourism.

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