EVANSTON — There was no special speaker at the May 25 meeting of the Uinta County Economic Development Commission. Instead, the monthly meeting, held at the Uinta County Complex in Evanston, consisted mostly of reviewing the status of previous plans, reviewing the key performance indicators, a proposal of a half-cent economic tax and and the proposal of new grandstands at the county fairgrounds.
Chair Dan Wheeler asked member Owen Petersen to report on Bridger Valley.
“The drive-in business in Mountain View next to the bowling alley has been sold and will open as Wall Brothers Grill and Market,” Petersen said. “The building has been empty for a long time, so this is going to be a real boon for the town.”
There has been no progress on Maverik’s plan to expand, Petersen reported, as the price of gas and construction materials make it prohibitive at this time.
Eric Wyatt added that the Town of Mountain View had hired a company to do a study as to whether building a hotel there was a feasible project; however, the town doesn’t own any property at this time. The town is also investigating implementing a lodging tax as they currently have none. Wyatt said Wells Fargo Bank in Lyman will close in August, which will leave a large, empty building for sale.
Gary Welling reported on the options presented by UW trainer Mary Martin for the strategic planning sessions. The commission decided to ask Martin if the dates of Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, two half-day sessions, would work for her. They decided it would be open to all commission members and some invited stakeholders.
“There is a company out of Lehi, Utah, that manufactures for NASA and wants to expand,” Welling said. “They have been looking at Evanston after they viewed the website. They need a 12,000-square-foot building and really want to be in Wyoming.”
Jon Conrad gave his report on the key performance indicators. He said the website had seen the number of hits doubled to 1,251 views in the last month.
Conrad mentioned that two other manufacturing companies had looked at Evanston first but settled on moving to Rock Springs because there aren’t large enough commercial buildings available in Evanston. One of the companies is a firearms manufacturer that provided guns to Ukraine.
He said Western Wyoming Community College in Rock Springs added a degree program in mining, the first community college in Wyoming to do so.
“I saw a report from the Department of Labor that the largest growing industry in Wyoming is computer and IT manufacturing with other manufacturing a second and food manufacturing third,” Conrad said. “The highest average wage was $1,100 per week.”
“Next month is recreation month for state parks, and Rocco (O’Neill, Evanston’s director of community development) had them put that on our website,” Welling said. “They are also putting SWOT on it.”
Wheeler mentioned that the lodging tax board has allocated monies to SWOT (Southwest Wyoming Off-road Trails) this year and will do so again next year.
Brent Hatch addressed the next topic for discussion, adding a half-cent tax strictly for the use of economic development in the county. He explained this would be different than the one-penny tax they had discussed before the last election cycle because that one-penny tax would have gone into the general fund.
Hatch said that Fremont County and Goshen County passed the economic tax and have found it successful. He explained that adding a proposed tax would have to be done before July 1st in order to get it on the ballot for the 2022 election.
After much discussion, it was decided that the commission should start talking to residents about it first and then bring it up again before the 2024 elections.
The last topic of discussion was the proposed new grandstands at the county fairgrounds. Hatch gave the members a copy of the proposal that had been presented to both the city council and the county commissioners. He thought the city and county had both been favorable to the projected plan.
“It will cost the city and the county $1,000,000 each, and ARPA money is a possibility for funding,” Hatch said. “This is the kind of project a ½ cent economic tax could pay for.”
Todd Jones asked if it would be necessary to build a new grandstand since a private company is already in the works to build a large event center. He asked if two facilities would be a waste. Hatch said they would host separate events. Jones then made a motion for the Commission to support the proposed new grandstand at the Uinta County Fairgrounds. The motion was seconded and passed unanimously.