'Things are looking up,' says governorAug 29, 2017 By Daniel Bendtsen, Staff Writer
During a Tuesday visit to the Riverton Rotary Club's weekly lunch meeting, Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead expressed confidence that the state's economy is set to rebound.
Citing the tripling of active operating rigs over the last year, as well as a positive forecast by the Consensus Revenue Economic Group in July, Mead said that "things are looking up."
Revising its January guess this summer, CREG said the state's revenue for 2017 was 14 percent higher than what was previously estimated -- though the $144 million in new revenue still means a deficit.
"It's less-bad news -- that's the best spin I can put on it," Mead said.
The key to ensuring the positive trend continues, he said, involves commitment to the economic diversification of the state.
"I do not accept a state of 580,000 people with a committed legislature and a committed citizen (base) is left to say, 'Our plan for our kids and our grandkids is to wait for mineral prices to come back,'" Mead said.
"That's not a plan. That's saying we're leaving our entire future to luck."
He said his Legislature-backed Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming will play a pivotal role in developing new industries and slowing the migration of youth out of the state.
"There is no such resource that's more important than those young people," he said.
Mead acknowledged that an executive push for diversification is "not a new notion," but he said the proliferation of the internet makes his diversification initiative different from the previous attempts of governors in the 1960s, '70s and '80s. Enhancing the state's technological capacity, he said - for example by linking private businesses to the state's 100 gigabit network backbone - is another key to taking advantage of new businesses.
"There's an expectation of technology," Mead said.
Capitalizing on data industries will also help keep young people in the state, he continued.
"(This generation) is more particular," Mead said. "They don't just want a job. They want to enjoy life and a place to raise their family."
Mead also stressed the importance of innovation to make Wyoming's natural resources -- including coal and the carbon dioxide it produces -- valuable in the market for the long-term.
"Regardless of your personal view on CO2 and how it relates (to climate change), if we want coal to exist for the next 100 years, we have to solve some problems," Mead said.
"You don't have to resolve, in your own mind, what your view on climate change is - you have to recognize that countries you want to ship to believe that climate change is real, and banks that finance coal companies believe that climate change is caused by CO2.
"So we can ignore that based upon our own personal views, or we can say 'Hey, we're going to be a leader.' ...
"If you're a leader in coal production, you should also be a leader in innovation."
Mead also expressed hope that the $10 million Carbon XPrize competition, with help from the Wyoming Integrated Test Center, could help turn the tides.
"If we get there, and I think we will, it's a game-changer for coal," he said.