Way back in December 1999 I wrote a column, which detailed the Achilles’ heel of Wyoming’s economic expansion — the lack of qualified workers who live here.
My solution was inviting natives, former residents and frequent visitors back home to the Cowboy State as a key way to solve this problem.
Now here we are 19 years later, the problem is not only still occurring but it might be worse today than it was way back then in the last century.
And on a similar subject, now, like then, the out-migration of Wyoming’s young people is a subject of dismay. Somehow the state needs to reverse that trend.
But we also have to confront the reality that often our young people want to head off to the big city. This is a natural wanderlust that most people consider an asset in a young person. We can worry all day long about it, but the reality is that a great many of our young people want to get out and see the world. The old refrain from World War I comes to mind: “How do you keep them down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree?”
So if it is a given that they are going to leave, maybe we just need to wait a decade or two or three and then we should invite them back?
We have a great opportunity to invite them back after they have been gone awhile.
Back in 1999, I suggested the state work with Wyoming newspapers, which were sending out more than 10,000 newspapers per week to former residents who were living in the 49 other states around the country.
As a former president of the Wyoming Press Association, I saw those readers as prime candidates to accept an invitation to “come home.”
Today this would still work but it could also be done through the multitude of web sites employed by newspapers, radio stations and online services.
Other folks who would be worth recruiting home to Wyoming:
• The mailing list of University of Wyoming graduates would be invaluable, as would the list of grads from the state’s community colleges. Efforts might be made around class reunion time to inform our natives about what a great state Wyoming is today.
• The list of servicemen who have spent time at Warren Air Force Base might be a good place to recruit people to return to our state. Plus there are national guardsmen from all over America who have spent quality time at the Guernsey training facility. I ran into just such a guy in Two Rivers, WI. He actually waved me down after seeing my Wyoming license plate. “Best time I ever had in my life. You Wyoming folks are great,” he exclaimed.
• What about the out-of-state folks who have applied for and purchased hunting and fishing permits in Wyoming. They would be ideal candidates to move here, too. Nowhere in the continental USA can offer the hunting and fishing experiences that Wyoming does. I know a realtor whose logo was “live and work where you want to play.” Made sense. These folks would be prime candidates to bring their skills to this place they love so much.
• Unique institutions like the National Outdoor Leadership School in Lander have more than 100,000 graduates across the world, all of whom recall wonderful times during their stay in our state. I would bet that if you asked a majority of them what was the “best” time of their lives, they would mention that NOLS course in Wyoming.
• Vigorous retirees are always good candidates. They would bring their own retirement income with them plus usually they end up investing in local business. Wyoming offers low taxes, good medical care, low population, cheap housing and a wonderful vigorous lifestyle. Plus our conservative financial policies and our conservative politics would cause them to come here, too.
Most recently, we have had the pleasure of dealing with graduates of Wyoming Catholic College in Lander. They come from more than 40 states around the country.
They are loving their Wyoming experience and want to stay here and work here after graduation. It appears that perhaps Wyoming is an “acquired taste” so the folks who know what living here means — well, they are more likely to want to live here and work here.
A “Come Home to Wyoming” program would go a long way toward solving the problem of matching good employees with good jobs here in the Cowboy State.
Check out additional columns at www.billsniffin.com. He has published six books. His coffee table book series has sold 34,000 copies. You can find them at www.wyomingwonders.com.