Hemp, website focus of economic development commission meeting

Uinta County Economic Development Commission Chair Brent Hatch, along with commissioners Brian Stokes and Owen Peterson, listens during a meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 4, in Evanston. (HERALD PHOTO/Kayne Pyatt)

EVANSTON — Chair Brent Hatch started the Dec. 4 Uinta County Economic Development Commission meeting by asking for reports from members on their market study targeted assignments. All members were present except for Alma Harmon and Tansy Shelton, who were excused.

Owen Peterson said the Subway franchise had closed in Mountain View and Kemmerer. Hatch added that the stand-alone Subway had also closed in Evanston, but he understood that that the owner of the one in Green River was negotiating with Subway’s corporate office to open them all again. 

Dan Wheeler asked Peterson if there was any discussion in the Valley regarding a manufacturing component to the growing of hemp. Peterson said the FDA had approved hemp and the Wyoming Attorney General was working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to get the process for growing underway. 

Ben Bell with First Bank, who was attending the meeting, spoke up, “Just today, First Bank received a letter from the federal government, which has gone out to all banks. The letter stated the feds will no longer be prosecuting anyone growing hemp in relation to the Federal Secrecy Act, so banks are no longer required to report those industries. It is a positive move and should allow bank laws to open up and provide help for those hemp businesses. The 2018 Farm Bill now allows us to support hemp industry.”

Sen. Wendy Schuler added that the state is in the process of approval and are working as fast as they can.

“The testing lab for hemp will stay at the University of Wyoming as it should,” she said.

Hatch said the commission is working hard to find ways to improve the local economy and he thanked all of the businesspeople and citizens who are attending the meetings and providing input.

Wheeler reported he is still working with possible businesses that might be interested in locating in Evanston but has nothing major to report yet.

Craig Welling and Mark McGurn had nothing to report. 

Ron Wild, speaking on behalf of Next Gen Partnership, said Next Gen has now launched medical meetings and Best Home Health is the champion leader. Wild asked that everyone spread the word as they need to get more medical personnel involved. 

“We are also looking for teachers, possibly retired teachers, to teach lifetime skills to young people who are potential hires. We are working with the Rotary and the Chamber of Commerce, who has what they call the Traveling Ambassadors, and they are going to businesses and providing one-on-one customer service training.”

It was reported that the housing market in Evanston up over last year and the Bridger Valley’s market has remained the same.

In other business, Evanston Director of Engineering and Planning Dean Barker said they have already had developers in their office asking about possible places to build and there are already 700 lots that have been approved.

Hatch asked that everyone move to the next agenda item, which was a discussion on the web page design. 

There was much discussion among commission members and the public in attendance over the web page design and many questions were raised. Questions included why a web page is wanted; who the target audience is; how a revenue stream could be developed to pay the monthly fee; what content would be on it; what references would be needed; if preference would be given to local developers; and how much the commission is willing to spend.

“It is not in our best interest to go outside the county,” Peterson said. “We need to support the local groups.”

Stokes said, “They can design anything we want; we just need to have in mind exactly what we want and how much we can spend. I agree we need to keep it local.”

“Could you take what you liked from the Golden Shovel group and incorporate that into your RFP and then put it out locally?” Rocco O’Neill asked.

Hatch said, “We are looking at a cost right now of $17,000 to build and $800 monthly from Golden Shovel (a Minnesota company) down to $3,000 to build and $250 monthly from the locals.”  

The commission decided to develop an RFP with specific and clear descriptions of what they want on the web site. They want to send it out to the four designers they received examples from and have a deadline for responses back by the Jan. 22 meeting.

Last on the agenda was public input and comments. 

Gary Welling summarized the public meeting with CoreCivic held on Dec. 2 at the Roundhouse. He said nothing had been decided yet and CoreCivic had met with the county planning and zoning office several weeks ago. He said if CoreCivic builds on the land by the Bear River State Park they will have to follow the county’s land use by right and will have to apply for a conditional use permit. If that happens it will be advertised three times and then be brought to the County Commission at a public meeting.

“CoreCivic has more hurdles to go through with ICE and ICE may require more environmental studies than what has already been done. ICE might want to have their own public meetings separate from the County to receive comments on the environmental impact. I thought the CoreCivic meeting was good and all concerns needed to be heard. It is up to the commissioners to weigh all the pros and cons as they do with any decision,” Welling concluded. 

Ron Wild again mentioned the Next Gen Partnership meetings and asked everyone to help create an awareness of the program and the different partnerships that could be opened.

Doug Rigby with Uinta County School District No. 1 spoke about the Perkins Grant to be used for new programs and/or new equipment in the schools, specifically for PIC (Professional Instructors Certificate) instructors. Rigby said anyone who has five or more years in a skilled profession can be eligible to teach as a PIC teacher. 

Recently the district spent $40,000 of grant money to put a computer science lab in the high school and new equipment was purchased for the auto shop. Currently, the school district is going through the process of a community needs assessment working with workforce services, BOCES and PIC instructors to look at employment opportunities and demands. 

“Most of you know about the senior projects that graduating seniors do. Some of those projects have led to internships. For example, we had a student working with a veterinarian, another observing at a surgical center and some interning with local contractors. We are looking for more opportunities for students,” Rigby said. 

Herald publisher Mark Tesoro reported he had met with Wendy and Rick Schuler, Todd Jones and Mark Black to discuss ATV trails. They had worked with Gary Welling at the county and looked at maps and possible routes that would join communities together and include special sites to visit. The trails would create an opportunity for local businesses to profit. Tesoro said the group would continue to look at all possibilities and move forward.


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