Wyoming's Manufacturing Sector is Diverse
Ron Kensey, president of Kennon Products Inc. in Sheridan, WY
Ron Kensey, president of Kennon Products Inc., stands in front of the company’s aircraft cover facility in Sheridan, where the company moved in 1989.
What Wyoming’s active manufacturing sector may lack in size, it more than makes up for in diversity.
Wyoming's Manufacturing Companies
A broad range of industries finds the state a great place to do business. Wyoming is home to companies that make sport and utility aircraft, packaging material, hydraulic gate controls, aviation shields, heavy equipment, cabinetry and alternatives to wood fencing, among others.
Quality of life is a big draw. That was the reason behind Kennon Products’ move to Sheridan in 1989, five years after it started making the Kennon Sun Shield for planes in a small garage in California. Today, Kennon also makes tail covers, dust covers, wind spoilers and heat protection for the military.
John Boreczky, president of Byan Systems, set up shop in Lusk in 1990 because Lusk State Bank was the only lender willing to back his plan. Four years later, the Secret Service picked Byan Systems to install its hydraulic gate operators at the White House. The company has also worked at federal banks and military installations.
About six years ago, the company built its own 9,000-square-foot facility with offices and assembly areas. “We had to. We had been growing,” Boreczky says. “We are still growing.”
Byan makes high-end gate controls for commercial and residential use. The company started with a few workers and now employs a dozen; most of them have stayed for at least five years. Boreczky cites the absence of business and inventory taxes in Wyoming as a major advantage, and he’s not alone.
“We got rid of any taxes on new manufacturing equipment, and that was the only roadblock remaining. We’ve got the lowest taxes in the country. It’s a lot easier to do business here than it was 20 years ago,” says Larry Stewart, director of Manufacturing Works, a not-for-profit organization that offers technical, marketing, engineering and financial consulting services.
Workforce Development Funds
According to figures from the state Department of Administration and Information, 3.5 percent of all Wyoming workers are in manufacturing, ranking the state 49th in percentage of workers in that sector. Energy and natural resources so dominate Wyoming's economic development and economy – and the tax base – that Wyoming can be generous with its workforce development funds in efforts to diversify business.
Heartland BioComposites started research and development of sustainable wood alternatives in 1999 and began selling fencing, posts, decking and rails made from wheat straw and recycled plastic in 2006. Between 2007 and 2008, business doubled, says owner Heath Van Eaton. He had looked at Kansas and Colorado, but Wyoming offered tax and energy advantages and a slew of willing partners.
Heartland BioComposites received support from Torrington, the Goshen County Economic Development Corp., the Wyoming Business Council, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the University of Wyoming and the Wyoming Wheat Growers Association, among others.
“The resources available to me in Wyoming I did not see in Kansas and Colorado,” Van Eaton says. “The state has an interest in diversifying its businesses. The economic incentives the state could offer us were unmatchable. As a startup you are looking for all the help you can get.”