ENDOW bill moving through Wyoming Legislature

A bill authorizing Gov. Matt Mead’s ENDOW economic diversification initiative continues to move through the Wyoming Legislature, advancing out of a House committee Wednesday.

 

Meanwhile, Mead’s office is soliciting public feedback on the proposal, as well as nominations for who should help lead the initiative.

 

ENDOW, which stands for Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming, is an effort being pushed by Mead that would create a 20-year blueprint to diversify the state’s economy.

 

Senate File 132, which authorizes the program and associated funding, has already passed the Senate and will go to the full House of Representatives after approval by the House Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee.

 

The 17-page bill calls for the creation of a 15-member executive council made up of appointed people representing a variety of economic sectors. The group would also have ex-officio nonvoting members who are legislative leaders.

 

It also authorizes $2.5 million in funding for the effort, with $1.5 million of that amount going toward workforce development.

 

That money is proposed to come from the state’s Legislative Stabilization Reserve Account, or rainy day fund, but lawmakers could choose to find the money elsewhere.

 

An initial assessment of the state’s economic situation would be due Aug. 30, and preliminary recommendations would be due Dec. 31. A final, 20-year “comprehensive economic diversification strategy” would be due Aug. 1, 2018.

 

That report would include goals for the state to reach and a plan to “guide the evolution of Wyoming’s economy in order to build a sustainable and diversified, value-added economy by 2038.”

 

The bill is sponsored by Senate President Eli Bebout, R-Riverton; Sens. John Hastert, D-Green River, and Michael Von Flatern, R-Gillette; House Speaker Steve Harshman, R-Casper; and Reps. Mike Greear, R-Worland, and David Miller, R-Riverton.

 

Bebout said Wednesday the initiative is particularly important because it looks past election cycles, providing for a long-term vision for the state.

 

“We don’t want to just have a plan we put on the shelf,” he said.

 

Bebout also said he believes the state should grow, though “responsibly.” He said he could envision Casper, Wyoming’s second-largest city, growing to 150,000 people.

 

But to do that, he said, the state needs a more diverse economy.

 

“If we don’t do anything, nothing happens,” he said.

 

Harshman noted the study would look at a variety of economic sectors, including energy. The study calls for inclusion of both fossil fuels and renewable energy sources.

 

Representatives of the Wyoming Business Council, the Wyoming Business Alliance, the Wyoming Mining Association, the Wyoming Economic Development Association, the Wyoming Association of Municipalities, the University of Wyoming and Wyoming’s community colleges all spoke in favor of ENDOW.

 

Jerimiah Rieman of Mead’s staff will serve as the coordinator of the ENDOW initiative.

 

Mead announced the ENDOW initiative in November and included funding for the program in his supplemental budget request. He also asked lawmakers to approve the legislative framework for ENDOW during his State of the State address this year.

 

“Building on the successes we’ve achieved, I continue to work for economic diversification,” Mead said in a statement Wednesday. “We need a long-term plan that goes beyond one governor’s time in office, a plan which complements our strengths and increases our economic opportunities in energy, tourism and agriculture, expands our economic base overall, and provides opportunities for our youth today and tomorrow.”

 

Mead is asking the public to complete an online survey about ENDOW, including nominations for people to serve on the executive council.

 

The survey can be found on the governor’s website at http://governor.wyo.gov.

 

 

 

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