That's the theme pushed by Gov. Jim Geringer, a Republican elected in 1994.
It's been used
before, and it hasn't worked. Nor have these other themes: Wyoming
is a good place to raise families; Wyoming has an educated
workforce; companies will thrive in Wyoming because employees will
love the outdoor leisure. It hasn't even worked to tell companies
outright that Wyoming has low taxes, low wages, a passive workforce
and no regulations.
Here's a sampling of the
campaigns Wyoming's promoters have made during busts. The state
does little promotion during booms, since everyone is too busy
trying to cash in on what they figure won't last long.
1950 In a promotion aimed at businesses, the
Commerce and Industry Commission touts a "cooperative state
government" in a state where business thrives, thanks to "the utter
lack of restrictive laws and regulations on business."
Pacific Power and Light Co. commissions a San Francisco consultant
to prepare an "objective economic survey." The consultant
concludes, "Wyoming has virtually every requisite except population
to become one of the greatest industrial states in the nation." The
consultant also predicts that the state's growth would "equal or
exceed that of other fast-growing Southwestern and Western states,"
reaching a population of 700,000 by 1980, thanks to favorable tax
laws and the "conservative philosophy of organized labor." To fill
out the picture, Wyoming residents were characterized as "happy
people" who "appear to be above average in intelligence" and "live
state gets some unexpected, unwanted publicity when a Wall Street
Journal reporter visits. The headline on his story: "Wyoming is
emptier and its economy lags as people move away." Reporter Dennis
Farley talked to University of Wyoming economists, who suggested
"processing more raw materials within the state and pursuing light
industries, like computer-related concerns, that aren't deterred by
Wyoming's liabilities." Instead, Farley found the state's economic
development board pinning Wyoming's revival hopes on "oil and
mineral activity." Gov. Stan Hathaway, right, was "stumping for
industry" in New York and Los Angeles, "courting industrialists'
with Wyoming moose and elk steak dinners, the Journal
1970s Thanks perhaps to the moose and elk steaks, construction
begins on the huge Jim Bridger Power Plant in Rock Springs. Five
thousand workers move into the town of 10,000. The Arab oil embargo
touches off a drilling boom across Wyoming. The development of soda
ash east of Rock Springs adds to the boom, and coal production
starts to increase in the Powder River Basin near Gillette.
Population growth is a stunning 46 percent, and talk about economic
development and diversification ceases. Then-Gov. Ed Herschler,
left, a Democrat, pursues a policy of "growth on our terms," which
is endorsed by most boom-weary residents.
The party is over. Oil prices skid, national energy demands wane,
almost 20,000 people leave the state by 1984 and unemployment rises
after having remained at a remarkable 3.7 percent during the boom.
Mineral production begins its slide, and as prices for oil and coal
drop, so does Wyoming's primary source of state
1985 It's time to
think about economic development and diversification again.
Legislators allocate $100,000 for the "Wyoming Futures Project."
Statewide public meetings are held, and "Building a Stronger
Wyoming" is produced. The report's conclusion: "A broad and
ambitious program of action is needed to move Wyoming in new
directions." The coming period of little or no growth should be
used to "develop an economic base that is far more diversified."
1986 The Legisla-ture sets
up an $18 million economic-development loan program. Over the next
decade, the state loses about $8 million from bad
1987 It's back to
energy and minerals. New governor Mike Sullivan proposes, and the
Legislature approves, tax breaks for the coal and oil and gas
industries. The Legislature also authorizes $21 million in 7
percent loans to companies experimenting with "clean coal"
technologies. The state loses from $10 million to $13 million, and
"Char-Fuels' becomes a synonym for failure in state-driven economic
Legislature allocates $500,000 to the Economic Development and
Stabilization Board to pay for a new promotion and slogan -
-Wyoming: Where nothing stands in your way." The theme conjures up
rape-and-scrape visions and is replaced by a tourism slogan that
sounds vaguely New Age: "Find yourself in Wyoming."
The same board goes after industry, emphasizing low taxes. A
brochure pitches Wyoming as "God's country" filled with people who
"aren't afraid of hard work." New firms are promised "minimum
governmental interference and maximum government support."
1991 Economic development
promoters in central Wyoming's Fremont County secure a $100,000
federal grant to study the burial of spent nuclear-fuel rods from
around the country at an abandoned uranium mine site. In 1992, Gov.
Sullivan halts the study in the face of overwhelming state
Jim Geringer breaks the 20-year Democratic hold on the
governorship. His economic development theme: Wyoming is "open for
Legislature authorizes up to $10 million in economic development
loans, primarily aimed at helping finance a proposed lamb plant
near Worland in northwestern Wyoming. The company balks at
disclosing information about the project; the plant is never
1997 The Legislature
approves $40,000 (matched with private funds) for another study of
how to achieve economic diversification.