EDITORIAL: Visits showcase Powell’s strengths and unusual nature

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Powell was in the spotlight last week.

Our city hosted iconic NBC newsman Tom Brokaw and the Executive Council of ENDOW, a state organization tasked with gathering information and coming up with long-term recommendations to help diversify Wyoming’s economy. Both visits took place during the Park County Fair, Powell’s big week of the year.

Brokaw visited Powell to talk to locals about their support for President Donald Trump. Brokaw said he chose Powell because he came here briefly years ago and found it to be the perfect example of small-town America.

“I was so struck by what a wonderful, prototypical small town it was,” he said. “I just thought that this is picture postcard.”

We agree with his assessment of our beautiful community. However, there is much more to it than immediately meets the eye, as the ENDOW council discovered.

While in the Powell area, the council toured the Powell Makerspace, listened to a discussion about value-added agriculture, took in a presentation on hops, got an overview of the unmanned aircraft industry, toured the Northwest College nursing program and firearms simulator and experienced virtual reality firsthand as part of an industry overview.

The ENDOW council’s agenda points out the following:

• The Powell Makerspace shows how rural communities can bring technology education and access to 21st century tools. The Makerspace effort was driven by local community members in partnership with the Powell school district, the Powell Branch Library, Powell Economic Partnership, Powell Charitable Foundation, AmeriCorps VISTA, USDA Rural Development, Powell Valley Community Education and Northwest College.

• The hops-growing effort is an example of a local community college partnering with the University of Wyoming and local farmers for economic development.

• The unmanned aircraft industry is growing and expected to continue growing exponentially.

• Virtual reality has the potential to create opportunities for economic development in the state, as illustrated by Valley Virtual, a local Wyoming-grown business.

Powell is an unusual mixture of a small town with an agriculture foundation, combined with technology and progressive thinking. Much of that progressiveness is fueled by or supported through Northwest College, but it couldn’t happen without the vision, hard work and cohesiveness of the community and its members. We applaud those who have worked so hard to make Powell a wonderful place to live and thrive.

Even so, our community is not without its challenges. Top among them is the specter of continued revenue reductions for Powell’s K-12 schools and Northwest College — local examples of the trickle-down effect of the state’s boom and bust cycles, and proof of the need for the ENDOW council’s efforts.

Another big challenge is the growing number of vacant buildings downtown. We hope some of the home-grown ingenuity demonstrated last week can fill those spaces with businesses that will help keep our downtown vibrant and economically successful, now and well into the future.

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