Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, Energy Capital Economic Development continues to help businesses in recovery as well as working on business expansion efforts. CEO Phil Christopherson shared that they are working on more than $18 million in grants and loans to support existing Campbell County businesses looking to expand their operations and increase their number of employees and more than $6 million on business recruitment for organizations outside of Campbell County.
“Prior to COVID-19, we are already seeing an increase in businesses asking us to help find financial support for how to grow their businesses. We partner with the Wyoming Business Council (WBC), Wyoming Small Business Development Center Network (SBDC), the USDA Rural Development program, as well as the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA),” said Christopherson. “Some of these projects are in early stages and others are waiting on guidelines to be issued from the state or federal government.”
In the past 5 years, Energy Capital Economic Development has successfully applied for $8.5 million in grants for projects that include the Advanced Carbon Products Innovation Center and the Enterprise Center that houses FUEL Business Incubator. As the state cannot provide funds to a private organization, ECED works in partnership with the local government where the building is located whether it is City of Gillette, Campbell County, and the Town of Wright.
“The grants provide capital to fund buildings for businesses ready to make the next step to expand. One of the downsides of grants is that it can take significantly longer. With the ACPIC facility, we hoped to have it completed by July 2019, but when we got an additional $1.46 million from the EDA, it allowed us to expand our scope,” said Christopherson. “We already have 5 projects that have committed to the 7 sites that will be available to rent at the ACPIC facilty. With an abundance of coal in our community, we see this as an anchor facility to support coal-to-products and new innovations.”
FUEL Business Incubator has seen an increase in interest in the past month as more entrepreneurs are exploring the next step to launch their business idea. Located at the Enterprise Center, the incubator is run by ECED to support entrepreneurs through mentoring and office rental and work spaces to promote innovation and new business ideas.
“We wear a lot of hats in economic development, but I spend most of my time helping existing businesses in Campbell County, helping them grow, and working with the entrepreneurs who represent the next generation of business opportunities,” said ECED Vice President of Operations Curtis Burdette.
“We are dot connectors. With COVID-19, we jumped in to help businesses with recovery and shared up-to-date information through our Business Impact webinar series and we shared business resources while continuing our behind-the-scenes work on grant applications. In these unprecedented times, we’ve stayed connected with our government, business, and community leaders to help lead the way to economic recovery,” Burdette added. “We’ve helped companies with supply chain issues and those looking for new customers. This summer, I’ll be spending a lot of time visiting businesses and talking to business owners to see their operations and learn what they need for their organizations to survive and thrive.”
Another effort by ECED has been to accept the leadership of Energy Capital Economic Development Foundation formerly Northeast Wyoming Economic Developic Foundation. The Foundation has been helping community efforts for the 5 northeast counties of Wyoming for 20 years and is looking at new ways to support efforts to promote jobs, business, and people in Campbell County.
“We are a membership organization. We are a resource not just for the biggest companies in town, but for any individual or organization that wants our help. We welcome new members who want to be a part of our mission to stimulate and facility a diverse economic through business retention, expansion, and recruitment,” said Christopherson. “We want there to be jobs and a strong economy in Campbell County for the next generation and the one after that. These grants and other projects will put us on the path for our organization to support jobs and workers for years to come.”