Economic diversification: A partisan campaign slogan? A slap at the mineral industry? A code word for inaction? Whatever the definition, we know the plea for “economic diversification” has spun around in Wyoming political circles for a long time, and more often when we are in one of our frequent “bust” cycles — like now, maybe.
Indulge me. When I was running for governor in the mid 1980s, Wyoming was in a “bust” cycle. So, from the primary in the spring of ’86 through that summer’s campaign and up until the election in November, every candidate for statewide office had to be on the dime and on the stump addressing the need to “diversify” Wyoming’s economy. But, the “boom” of the ’90s came and the need faded. Except for private entrepreneurial initiatives here and there, officials and politicians returned to “talking the talk,” rather than “walking the walk.” As we all know, there’s always another boom just around the corner…
Why does the state need to go beyond “talking the talk” this time? In other words, is this time somehow different? What if the mineral market — coal, oil and gas — are irrevocably bottomed out? What if fossil fuels have taken a fatal hit in the national economy?
The latest effort to start walking is Gov. Mead’s new initiative called Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming. The group leading the initiative issued a preliminary report that spurred some legislative action this year. And now ENDOW members have put out a survey to get more comment on the direction they’re taking.
Chris Madson read ENDOW’s report and found it severely lacking. He calls for investment in Wyoming’s high-class assets — our wildlife, fish, and beautiful streams, mountains and plains — to attract more tourism and recreation. Madson is the former editor of Wyoming Wildlife magazine, and holds a master’s degree in wildlife ecology.
Rosie Berger, a member of the ENDOW executive committee, responds describing ENDOW’s plans for a strong foundation. Berger, former speaker pro tem of the Wyoming House of Representatives, served six years on the Wyoming Parks and Cultural Resources Commission and spent decades in the travel industry.
Let’s talk about it! Post your comments and questions on WyoFile, and respond to ENDOW’s survey — deadline May 7.