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EDITORIAL: Breaking the boom-and-bust cycle in Wyoming

There’s a sense of hope as Wyoming lawmakers look to next month’s budget session. The state has weathered the economic storm that dampened recent years and forced lawmakers to draw millions of dollars from the rainy day fund.

While improving commodity prices have brought some sunshine back to Wyoming, the state cannot just sit back and wait for brighter days to come. We must use this calm after the storm to prepare for — and hopefully prevent — the next one. Socking money away in savings accounts isn’t enough, nor is slashing funding and services.

Instead, Wyoming must find a way to truly diversify the state’s economy so that we aren’t as dependent on mineral wealth. When 70 percent of Wyoming’s revenue comes from minerals, fluctuations in prices either send us soaring or scrambling.

“For a state that prides itself on independence, certainly we can say that our future is not just left up to the whims of commodity prices,” Gov. Matt Mead said Friday. “We have a greater say in our destiny than, ‘We hope things get better.’ We have to build it so it is better.”

Mead highlighted the work of ENDOW, which stands for Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming. In a preliminary report released earlier this month, the ENDOW Executive Council outlined recommendations the state should focus on, such as expanding commercial air service, improving broadband access, teaching computer science and encouraging entrepreneurs.

Some of the ENDOW recommendations carry multi-million dollar price tags, and each one will take hard work to become a reality.

“We should not embark on these efforts unless we fully understand they will be multi-year and multi-million dollar undertakings,” ENDOW Chairman Greg Hill said in a press release earlier this month. “If we are not prepared to act decisively and commit for a significant period of time, we are wasting time and money.”

While it’s not going to be easy for Wyoming to wean itself from its dependency on minerals, it’s necessary.

Developing long-range plans and laying the groundwork for economic growth in other industries will pay off for the Cowboy State in the future.

The hope is to create new jobs and opportunities — not just to attract out-of-state employees, but for Wyoming’s own young people. Wyoming is losing 60 percent of its residents between the ages of 18 and 25, Mead said.

“There’s nothing more important to the future of Wyoming than those young people,” he said.

But in order for them to stay and raise their own families here, the jobs must exist. In Wyoming’s perpetual boom-and-bust cycle, young residents often find themselves out of work when a bust hits and must move away — and they may never return.

As Gov. Mead said, it’s time for Wyoming to take the reins and steer its own destiny. Then we’ll be better prepared to ride out the next storm.

4 comments

  • posted by John Clark

    January 25, 2018 4:07 pm

    Until the Wyoming voters quit electing officials who love big business money the state will never diversify.

  • posted by John Clark

    January 25, 2018 4:04 pm

    Who are these eastern carpet baggers?

  • posted by Salty Dawg

    January 25, 2018 6:52 am

    "As Gov. Mead said, it’s time for Wyoming to take the reins and steer its own destiny." It is way past time,should have happened years ago.Y'all reap what you sow.

  • posted by Disgusted taxpayer

    January 24, 2018 10:40 am

    The first thing people will have to do is diversify the one sided politics in Wyoming.Far too many years and too many generations have went by allowing carpetbaggers to infest the state with that Eastern attitude chasing the almighty dollar...and Wyoming people are guilty of installing the very puppets those carpetbaggers adore.I find it interesting why so many Wyomingites proclaim to be religious conservatives while looking the other way when their party does it's dirty deeds...the dirty deeds in DC right now are a prime example of this.There is nothing wrong allowing folks to think for themselves,instead of constantly instilling one sided indoctrinating garble to generations of young people.No wonder so many choose to run like rabbits out of Wyoming when the booms fizzle out.Myself included...and I never looked back.Good luck to the so few sane people left in your state.

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