SWEETWATER COUNTY– The Sweetwater Economic Development Coalition (SEDC) has created a Business Recovery Team to focus on the local business needs during and after a crisis.
The business recovery team is aimed to help during any crisis the county may face, and currently is focused on dealing with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Eric Bingham, SEDC and County Land Use Director, and Kayla McDonald, Economic Development Specialist, have put together a team of about 10 people, representing different sectors to help gather resources for businesses to use in times of crises.
The team ranges from city government, county government, economic development, tourism, the Green River and Rock Springs chambers, an industry rep from Genesis Alkali, and education reps from Western Wyoming Community College and the Sweetwater County School District #2.
“We’ve brought in these people to help us look at a strategy moving forward. This is something that we’ve found we probably should have had in place beforehand, just as far as disaster preparedness for an economic development organization, but what better time to implement something than in the middle of a crisis,” McDonald said.
The recovery team is focused on helping Sweetwater County businesses during the redevelopment stages both while and post crisis. One of the main purposes of the recovery team will be to get information out to businesses for loans and grants and other businesses resources and needs.
“We get the information from all these different entities and with us here at the county, that also facilitates us in getting that information to the elected officials as well,” Bingham said.
The SEDC recovery team is also partnering with the Sweetwater County Emergency Operations Center to get information out, as well as compiling websites and data on how to apply for grants and loans for businesses.
“What we’re hoping to do is centralize the location so people just have to go to one website to get the information,” Bingham said.
Business Recovery Center
Another part of the recovery team’s efforts is focused on creating a business recovery center that will act as a centralized location where businesses can get in person help with financial recovery.
“We’re setting up a one-stop shop for people who are interested in loans and any grant if there are grants that are available,” Bingham said.
“Peope don’t know where to shop or to go as far as financial help, and these recovery centers are set up for people who want face to face contact and be able have someone to assist them in writing up the loans,” he added.
Rob Condie, who is the regional director of the Wyoming SBDC Network, will be the local adviser helping people with their loan and grant applications, Bingham said.
Though the location for the center has not been determined yet, Bingham believes it will most likely be located at the Rock Springs Chamber, as most centers like these are located at the community’s chamber.
“It’s a one-stop shop is what you’re trying to create so people don’t have to go to all these different locations.”
Sweetwater County Working Together
McDonald said the team they have put together has helped connect different sectors of the economy and build relationships.
“It’s a really great effort between the communities, Rock Springs and Green River, even in the government level to get these resources together. We’re seeing a lot of great partnerships being developed through this. It’s affecting everybody, and all of Sweetwater County is stepping up, no matter the sector or position we are in,” McDonald said.
She said SEDC wanted to make sure education and the work force were included in the recovery team, as the coronavirus pandemic, as well as most crises, will eventually affect education and industry.
“Dr. (Kim) Dale… said during times of crisis, Western’s enrollment goes up, and that’s something the college is willing to embrace. They’re looking at if they need to change their cycle of education or if they need to add more courses. It’s a time for them to work with industry and businesses and figure out what the new needs are going to be,” McDonald said.
SEDC is also still adding individuals to the team as they find gaps that are not yet represented.
McDonald said for local businesses, it is important for them to stay in touch with the local Chambers and communicate changes in hours, day to day operations, and any needs. The Chambers help keep SEDC informed.
“If there’s a new need for businesses in the community, we need to be aware of it too so we can address it,” McDonald said.
Economic Diversification Still a Priority
Bingham and McDonald said that while they are focusing on the business needs due to the pandemic, that does not mean focus has been shifted from economic development in Sweetwater County.
“Economic diversity is our priority,” McDonald said. “Middle Baxter Road is still in progress and it’s not something that’s going away because of this pandemic.”
The Middle Baxter Road economic diversification project is currently undergoing an economic case study, which Bingha said takes some time. However, the project is in progress and they will hear more updates on it in the next couple weeks.
“It’s still being worked on right now,” Bingham said.
The Middle Baxter Road project is an industrial development project that will consist of developing 15,000 acres near the Southwest Wyoming Regional Airport and Middle Baxter Road for the purpose of an industrial site.