ROCK SPRINGS– The Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming (ENDOW) Executive Council hosted a public forum in Rock Springs today in which members of the private and public sectors discussed advanced manufacturing in Rock Springs and the state of Wyoming.
Wyoming Ranks 43rd in the US in Manufacturing
Director of Economic Diversification Strategy Initiatives Jerimiah Rieman said that as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP), Wyoming’s manufacturing industry ranks 43rd in the United States.
Manufacturing activities contributed 5.5 percent to Wyoming’s GDP in 2016, while manufacturing activities contributed 11.7 percent to the United States.
If Wyoming can close the 6 percent gap, Wyoming would rank 22nd in the US in manufacturing, and it would add $2 billion to the state’s GDP.
Currently, 42.7 percent of the workforce in Wyoming is employed in businesses related to petroleum and coal products manufacturing, chemical manufacturing, plastics and rubber manufacturing, and nonmetallic mineral product manufacturing.
Only 16.5 percent of manufacturing jobs fall within these business categories nationwide.
The attendees of the meeting discussed building upon existing industries, and applying these assets to manufacturing areas that will propel the state forward. The key is to identify sectors that will not be outdated in the next few years.
Incentives and Challenges to Manufacturing in Wyoming
There are several enablers and incentives to bringing manufacturing jobs to the state including no corporate income tax, no inventory tax, low electric and utility costs, low property and sales taxes, and low workers compensation and unemployment insurance taxes.
Also, there is less red tape and more government transparency in Wyoming. Wyoming has a sales tax exemption on manufacturing equipment, and an exemption on electricity used during the process of manufacturing.
However, Wyoming lacks availability of a workforce, workforce housing, proximity to markets, a permitting process, and a critical mass of employment sectors. Also, the state lacks a skilled workforce.
With the increasing emergence of robots and automation, over 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will be needed, but 2 million of these jobs are predicted to go unfilled because of lack of skills in the workforce.
If Wyoming works to build upon the skills needed, the state could work toward building its manufacturing industry.
Manufacturing Areas to Build On
The industry and business leaders and the general public in attendance at the meeting discussed the manufacturing subsectors that the state could build upon to improve the economy and opportunity in Wyoming.
They discussed the possible stakeholders of the subsector, the aspiration for the subsector, what it could add to Wyoming’s economy, what makes it viable, and what needs to happen in order to realize the aspiration.
Their ideas and discussions will be compiled and used when putting together the final ENDOW recommendations and report that will be submitted to the governor on August 1, 2018.
The attendees discussed ideas on how to implement the following sectors in the state:
- Wind and renewable energy manufacturing
- Outdoor equipment
- Digital and adaptive manufacturing
- Value added natural resources
- Augmented and virtual realities
- Firearms manufacturing
- Computer and electronic products
- Fabricated Metal products
Wind and Renewable Energy Manufacturing
The attendees did not necessarily believe that Wyoming will become a major hub for manufacturing the actual blades and solar panels, but they discussed manufacturing the components needed for the blades and panels.
The wind energy industry spans a lot of subsectors such as advanced textiles, metals, digital manufacturing, 3D printing, and so on. Wyoming could look into the demand for these kinds of products and manufacture them.
With Wyoming’s beautiful landscapes and outdoor activities, it was argued that the state has a built-in market for outdoor equipment manufacturing. It was discussed that the manufacturing of outdoor equipment could be tied in with Wyoming’s tourism and recreation.
Products like fishing poles, ski equipment, and hiking gear could be manufactured in the state, which would promote manufacturing and stimulate tourism and recreation.
Stakeholders could include the Wyoming Department of Tourism, outdoor stores, and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
Some of the attendees believe that in three to five years, there could be 50 employees working in the manufacturing of firearms in Wyoming. Also, in five years there could be support manufacturing that produces products such as scopes. They also said Wyoming could have ammunition manufacturing in five years.
They said that over 10,000 jobs could be created over the course of 20 years in firearms and related manufacturing alone.
With the nation’s recent reaction to guns, they said that Wyoming could look to recruit companies from the East and West Coasts that may not feel comfortable manufacturing in those areas anymore.
Computer and Electronic Products
Representative of House District 18 Tom Crank and Western Wyoming Community College economics instructor Bill Formanek discussed that every job and manufacturing sector needs computers and technology.
They said that Wyoming should put an emphasis on educating the workforce in soft skills and computer sciences. They said the University of Wyoming and the state’s community colleges should train students in computer sciences and software development to build this subsector.
This subsector could have a great impact on Wyoming’s economic growth.
Value Added Natural Resources
Vice Chairman of the ENDOW Executive Council Bill Schilling said that 70 percent of Wyoming’s tax revenue comes from minerals.
Rather than just processing minerals like trona, the state could encourage trona ash consumable industries to manufacture products here.
If industries that use trona ash such as glass and glass products, cosmetics, and soap and other detergents manufactured in Wyoming, there would be more economic growth, and less cost would go towards exporting the soda ash and importing the products.
However, Schilling said that some minerals are on the decline and can be unpredictable, so it will very important for Wyoming to increase manufacturing in several subsectors.
Industry and business leaders, as well as the general public will have two more opportunities to voice their opinions and ideas to the ENDOW Executive Council.
The Executive Council will host a meeting in Riverton on May 10 and 11. This meeting will be at the Wind River Casino. Each committee will present its current work and findings.
The Executive Council will host another meeting on June 28 and 29 in Rock Springs at WWCC. This will be the final meeting before turning in the final report on August 1.
There will also be a youth summit in Laramie on June 9 for college students to attend and discuss ideas.