It’s time, again, for government leaders to take a hard look at its efforts to diversify the business and industry that provide jobs in Wyoming.
This is nothing new. We’ve been forced into this economic scrutiny many times before, yet it seems like we often end up behind the curve.
Gov. Matt Mead has laid out a 20-year strategy for promoting economic diversification. ENDOW — Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming — is expected to accomplish goals Wyoming has had on its list for decades:
Encourage the expansion and diversification of Wyoming’s existing energy and industrial sectors
Stimulate new and emerging industries
Create private sector jobs
Encourage business development, entrepreneurship and innovation
Mead said it himself: “We need a long-term plan that goes beyond one governor’s time in office.”
It’s important, given Wyoming is so fragmented. No one is taking an overall look at the state as a whole. Our state government should be the mechanism to ensure there is a reasonable vision for the future and a way to make it happen.
Mead wants ENDOW to complement Wyoming’s strengths:
These, he says, should help provide “opportunities for our youth today and tomorrow.”
Those opportunities should mesh with the nation’s new economy.
Mead has targeted areas that have served us well for many decades. But we also can’t draw a circle around ourselves and deal only with the status quo.
We must educate our children in a way that prepares them to find jobs in future growth fields. If we’re not helping provide jobs in those fields here at home, they will not stay or return to Wyoming.
Medical fields: With an aging population and issues surrounding affordable care, the positions available are becoming more varied by the day.
Digital: Communications and technology fields are among the top growth fields.
Services: Not every student is cut out for an academic track. So we must provide them the education necessary to pursue other endeavors. We must continue to value crafts and trades programs at the college level, whether it leads to a degree or certificate in that field. A student who helps build a home as part of a high school course, may go on to become a valuable homebuilder.
Education is a powerful economic development tool. High schools and colleges must ensure they are offering programs that fuel future business needs.
The state also must find a way to pay for this. Legislators simply don’t have the option of declaring “no tax increases.” It’s not prudent during tough economic times, particularly with budgeting issues surrounding education.
Some have lamented that higher taxes will discourage business and industry from coming into Wyoming.
But if schools are not keeping up, if they’re not turning out students who can compete in the job market, won’t that, too, deter businesses? What hurts us more?
Plus, if we’re not educating students properly, will the businesses still come?
Mead is now asking for input from all of us; and he’s looking for people who will help move his initiative forward.
ENDOW just might pave the way for a plan that can live on, far beyond Mead’s time in office.
For decades, reports and studies have been done on how to diversify our economy. Then they are shelved.
Now there is ENDOW. Let’s hope it doesn’t suffer the same fate by simply collecting dust.