Day 2 Recap of The Governor’s Business Forum

November 18, 2022

Day 2 Recap of The Governor’s

Business Forum

Day 2 picked up right where the incredible first day left off. The morning was full of excellent panels with discussions around visioning Wyoming’s future, education options, and Wyoming’s big issues through the eyes of some of our most senior legislators.

Rob Hendry, Wyoming Business Alliance Vice-Chairman, welcomes attendees to Day 2 of the Governor’s Business Forum

Visioning Wyoming’s Future Panel
Senior Policy Advisor to Governor Gordon, Rob Creager moderated this panel that included discussion around what Wyoming’s future could look like with regards to continued efforts at economic diversification, business development, and the workforce needed to make those businesses thrive.

  • Josh Dorrell, CEO of the Wyoming Business Council: Josh spoke about how Wyoming has a great tax structure, but that’s not all it takes to recruit and retain businesses in Wyoming. It takes thriving communities and a trained workforce. He spoke about how in Wyoming we can pivot fast and help a specific business develop that workforce and how being small and nimble is how Wyoming differs from other states.
  • Jim Mathis, Owner and CEO of WyoTech: Jim talked about how WyoTech isn’t just training automotive techs, but good workers in general by helping instill soft skills like showing up to work on time ready to work and how his program strives to create and grow good work ethics. Mathis also shared how he continues to expand WyoTech programs to now include ag based training and more.
  • Lauren Schoenfield, Wyoming Innovation Partnership Executive Director: Lauren’s presentation focused on how Wyoming needs to share more in the state about the great things we are doing with our education system, how we are helping to train and educate the future workers of Wyoming, and where they can find great jobs without leaving. She also outlined components of the WIP Initiative and how the University of Wyoming and Community Colleges are working to further their partnership and grow Wyoming’s skilled workforce.
  • Eric Protzer, Senior Research Fellow at Harvard University’s Growth Lab: Eric spoke about how one of Wyoming’s strengths is that it does a great job of taking a natural resource and finding other industries, not only downstream, but upstream from that natural resource to develop. By moving upstream and downstream, it will help to further economic diversification. He is engaged in a project that can look at what policies Wyoming can enact to help business grow, diversifying the economy, and spur economic growth.
Educational Freedom Panelist and Superintendent of Public Instruction Elect, Megan Degenfelder, speaks at the Governor’s Business Forum.

Educational Freedom Panel

What do Businesses, Parents, and Students

Want for the Future?

Representative Jared Olsen moderated a panel of educational experts discussing education options, including public charter schools and funding options around alternatives to traditional education.

  • Jade Rivera, Founder of the Albuquerque Collegiate Charter School: Having started a charter school herself, Jade shared about her experience and lessons learned while creating a top charter school and providing students and parents a choice in their education.
  • Michael O’Donnell, Former Wyoming Special Assistant Attorney General: Michael was able to provide historical context about public school funding, the current block grant model, and constitutional context about education funding in Wyoming.
  • Megan Degenfelder, Superintendent of Public Instruction Elect: Megan talked about the need to create more options for students than ever before. Competition and choice are key ingredients to a thriving education system. Choice is not only about the facility, but also pathways within the existing public schools.
  • Dr. Lisa Grover, Senior Director for State Advocacy at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools: Dr. Grover works to improve charter school laws in states around the country. She spoke about how she is encouraged on how Wyoming is moving forward to create education options.
  • Gail Symons: Gail spoke about what centers of excellence are and how that works well in parts of the state like the Sheridan area. She also spoke about how the nuances in education funding and the difficulty comparing education costs for rural versus non-rural schools. She also shared her experiences serving on the Government Efficiency Commission.

Wyoming’s Big Issues

Legislative Panel Discussion

Former CEO and COO of the Wyoming Business Council, Bob Jensen, led this panel of Wyoming legislators to discuss big issues that Wyoming faces and what our legislators are prepared to tackle in upcoming legislative sessions.

  • Senator Ogden Driskill: Sen. Driskill spoke about continued efforts to work toward diversifying our economy and working on the state budget. He talked about making sure we don’t replace our natural resource economy, but enhance it. He feels cryptocurrency and blockchain are something we need to continue to discuss, and we need to keep looking at out of the box ideas to create revenue. He said he will continue to work hard to work together in a respectful and civil manner to better Wyoming.
  • Representative Jerry Paxton: Rep. Paxton has heard from industry and from businesses that a well-trained and ready workforce is vitally important and the need to ensure our education system is supporting that. He put emphasis on CTE and its importance to the future of the state.
  • Representative Eric Barlow: Rep. Barlow focused his talk on mental health and suicide awareness, suicide prevention, and healthcare in general. As the longest serving member on House Labor/Health Committee, he shared his valuable perspectives. He noted that there is much work to be done to support employees and businesses in terms of quality of life.
  • Representative Tom Walters: Rep. Walters talked about Wyoming’s state building assets and looking towards long-term maintenance needs. He also shared about how slight price changes in oil and gas have significant impacts on the state’s budget. He also spoke about his interest in working to maintain air transportation for the state and that citizens and businesses must have steady access to air transportation. He reflected on the evolution of Wyoming’s gaming statutes and how gaming is an additional revenue stream. He stressed the importance of how a diversified tax structure would benefit Wyoming and work on the state budget will remain a priority.

Governor Gordon’s Closing Address

Governor Gordon closed out the 2022 Governor’s Business Forum by discussing the upcoming release of this 2023 Supplemental Budget and how many of the things that have been talked about the Forum this year are included in the budget request. He spoke about improving K-12 education and how we need to focus on students and parents. He spoke about improvement to Wyoming’s infrastructure and how that can help business grow.

In closing, he summarized the topics of the forum and how we can all support these issues and tackle the problems together in order to make Wyoming stronger. He greatly looks forward to the opportunities that are ahead.

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