Economic development commission elects officers

EVANSTON — The Uinta County Economic Development Commission (UCEDC) met on March 1, for the first time since Dec. 7, 2022.  The January and February meetings were canceled due to winter weather conditions.

Clyde Kofoed, representing the town of Bear River, Ben Bell from Evanston and Brian Woody from Mountain View were introduced and welcomed as new members to the commission.

The commission then conducted a private paper vote for new officers for the year. Those elected include Dan Wheeler to serve another term as chair, Jesse Lind as vice chair and Kofoed as secretary/treasurer.

Gary Welling asked the commission to review the finalized strategic plan.

“… Some of our goals have changed since we worked on this with trainer Mary Martin,” Welling said. “The goals for the 1,000 acres development have changed practically overnight. But we need to adopt this document as a living document. We can make changes when necessary.”

The strategic plan essentially outlines the mission, the vision and the values of the commission with eight broad internal and external goals as focus points for the next three years.

Lind made a motion to approve the strategic plan, and it was approved with a minor wording change.

Evanston Community Development Director Rocco O’Neill introduced Monica Jo Patten, assistant director of IMPACT 307. O’Neill said that IMPACT 307 is a University of Wyoming program located in the entrepreneurial department. He said he and Patten had come because they need the involvement and support of UCEDC. O’Neill said Evanston and Rawlins are the first communities to be involved that do not have a local community college.

As stated on the handout given by Patten: “IMPACT 307 is a statewide network of innovation-driven business incubators committed to growing and strengthening Wyoming’s entrepreneurial community by providing resources and support founders to thrive.”

“IMPACT 307 is a collaboration between the University of Wyoming and Western Wyoming Community College,” Patten said. “The program is free and offers challenges to obtain seed funding for new business start-ups. We offer free mentorship, education on entrepreneurship, business counseling, virtual learning opportunities and networking events.”

O’Neill said Evanston Jumpstart is just for Evanston residents but IMPACT 307 is county-wide. Individuals who have completed the seven weeks of Jumpstart can immediately enter the IMPACT 307 program.

Patten said $25,000 has been set aside as total winnings, and there can be one or more winners. The process for winning is similar to Jumpstart’s program where the applicant has to develop a business plan, a marketing strategy and a three-year projection of cash flow, then pitch it to local judges.

If a business doesn’t make it as a finalist, they can apply again the following year. The program is revenue-based and if the winner does not make progress on their business, UCEDC will retain the money and put it aside for the next year.

“The Wyoming Business Council had funded several million dollars to a company that started with IMPACT 307,” O’Neill said. “That company is now one of the largest hydroponics agricultural companies in the country.”

Kemmerer City Administrator Brian Muir, who was attending the meeting via Zoom, then gave an update on happenings in Kemmerer.

“TerraPower is going ahead with plans and will have 50 workers here this summer to start excavation for the testing lab which will be built,” Muir said. “They project to have 500 workers the summer of 2024, up to 2,000 workers by 2026. The official startup of the nuclear reactor plant will be 2028.”

Muir said that an RFP (request for proposal) for enriched uranium is being sent out by TerraPower to U.S. companies. He added that Stephen Allen, economic development liaison, is working on soliciting housing developments in the area. Muir added that the troubles the wastewater treatment in Kemmerer are being mitigated through state funding.

Kiley Ingersoll of the Wyoming Business Council announced that the University of Wyoming School of Energy Resources together with the WBC has submitted a letter of intent to submit a proposal for the U.S. Department of Energy’s four regional clean direct air capture hubs program. In May of 2022, the Department of Energy (DOE) released a notice of intent to provide $3.5 billion in funding to establish direct air capture hubs for large-scale CO2 removal.

“Direct air capture technology is a form of carbon capture utilization and sequestration where air is captured and the CO2 is separated out and then permanently stored underground or converted into products,” Ingersoll said. “The application is looking for feasibility and viability in a community, including clean energy, early technology readiness, long-term market uncertainty, and community integration. I am asking for a letter of support from UCEDC.”

UCEDC agreed to write a letter of support for the Wyoming Business Council.

Wheeler reported that the Uinta County School District No. 1 trustees had voted to spend $1.5 million to put two domes up at the high school area. He said it will take six semi-trucks to bring the domes to Evanston and they will be stored in a warehouse until they can be erected.

Wheeler said the project will begin in late May or early June.

Brent Hatch announced that the grandstands at the fairgrounds are being removed. Seating capacity will rise from 1,800 with the old grandstands up to 4,700.

Hatch also reminded everyone that the parking lot at the library will be demolished and filled in starting immediately. It will take up to 15,000 yards of dirt to fill it in, Hatch said.

Ben Bell asked if UCEDC could revisit the one-penny tax soon due to the influx of workers coming in from the overflow of Kemmerer. 

“What is our role as a commission as the economy grows and the impact on the community?” Bell asked. “What can we do to help to control growth and still maintain a nice atmosphere in the area?”

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