From the pages of
The Sublette County Journal
Volume 4, Number 21 - 1/20/00
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Bashing the Wyoming Business Council

Yeah, lets beat back business development a little more! This week the Joint Appropriations Committee was making the Wyoming Business Council justify its existence and its funding request for the next budget year and in the same breath, criticizing the Council for not acting the same as other state agencies.

Did I miss something or wasn't that the point?

The Business Council was created by the Legislature in 1998 to put the private sector in charge of economic development statewide, with financial support from the state government. It was given a time frame and a general idea of what was to be accomplished and then turned loose to get this state turned around economically.

A Five-Year Strategic Plan (dated February 26, 1999 on the WBC website) was developed. The Business Council Primary Focus reads: "Overall Growth of the State's Economy Through the Advancement of the Existing Business and Industry Base & the Growth of the Manufacturing & Technology Group as a Core Competency within Wyoming." Now tell me, when was the last time you heard of any government agency talking about "core competency?"

A representative of the Wyoming Public Employees Association says the Council should operate like all other State agencies because it is funded by the State. A senator from northeast Wyoming is bitter because he perceives a lack of economic development in his corner of the world. Some members on the committee and other State agencies are questioning the ethics of awarding $70,000 worth of bonuses to the employees of the Council last year and whether those bonuses are appropriate in light of the miserable financial situation of State government. All this blustering makes good sound-bite material for the evening news since it shows the constituents back home that this outrageous and unfair "endowment" to some is something that we just can't tolerate in Wyoming and by gosh, we're going to do something about it.

Both CEO John Reardon and Council Chairman Dave Crum Stated to the Committee that 80% of the Stated objectives of the Council were met in 1999. The Council did this at 25% under budget and, just like a good company should, it rewarded those within the organization for meeting those goals and doing it cost-effectively. Why would we condemn any agency or company for doing that well in its accomplishments and that much under budget to boot?

Seventy-thousand dollars in bonuses paid out to 63 staff members may sound exorbitant to most folks who work for a paycheck, but this is how the real business world should work. Perhaps, if $70,000 was the maximum available for bonuses, only 80% of it should have been doled out, equivalent to the percentage of goals and objectives met. But the autonomy of the Council gives it the prerogative to make those rewards nonetheless.

I think those who are criticizing the bonuses and the Council in are uninformed and missing the point by a mile. Years and years of doing business and encouraging economic development as it has been done in the past won't be changed in one or two years or even five years. The attitudes are entrenched, the thinking is boxed in and outsiders with new ideas and styles are not readily accepted here. But there are some who are "thinking outside the box" and acting outside it as well and they aren't the bureaucratic establishment.

The real people who can lead the State in economic development are those who are and/or have been in business for themselves; people who have had to make payroll, often at the expense of their own personal financial needs. People who have failed at one enterprise and come back to build up a company that employs locals and provides them with good benefits, both monetary and psychic. The Council, which is made up of business people, delegates responsibility to its employees and oversees their actions while keeping track of the bottom line. And, as a group of business people, it will take responsibility for the results of its management decisions, whatever those may be.

Bringing economic diversity, growth and prosperity to Wyoming is and will continue to be a dirty, ugly, long and arduous task. We have some savvy, tough folks working for us here; lets get out of their way and let them do what they do best. Nobody said it would be pretty or easy; or anything like what we've seen before. That's the point.

See The Archives for past articles.

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Publisher/Editor: Rob Shaul