For release Dec. 13, 2019
Weatherby’s relocation to Sheridan may seem to have happened overnight.
However, while recruiting Weatherby to Wyoming did happen relatively quickly and smoothly, it was the pinnacle of many, many years of economic development strategy, hopeful foresight and investment in Sheridan.
This week, that long-term effort and ultimate success won the Sheridan Economic and Education Development Authority (SEEDA) a first-place distinction for Economic Impact Deal of the Year, Small Division, at the Mid-America Economic Development Council contest in Chicago. The Northeast Wyoming Growth Alliance was also acknowledged for its part in helping to market the region.
“The Weatherby deal had a significant impact locally and statewide, and was a marquee name recruitment to a small community,” said Brandon Marshall, Business Development Director for the Wyoming Business Council. “Even beyond the obvious impact the Weatherby project made, the award made sense to the committee based on all the years of work that Sheridan did to make sure they had the workforce and infrastructure ready for when a company like Weatherby arrived at the door."
Kate McEnroe served on the judging panel. She is a Chicago-based economic development and site selector consultant.
“The thing that really stuck out about this project was the long-term, consistent effort,” she said. “Also important was the fact that there was a regional alliance formed. We know it isn’t always easy for individual communities to come together to benefit each other, but site selectors think in terms of regions, and it’s almost always more effective to approach economic development from a regional perspective.”
The years of work Sheridan put in include the investment in the Sheridan High-Tech Park, where Weatherby moved in last June. The project was a $4.6 million public investment, including $2.6 million in Business Council funding, that began construction in 2010. Today, two manufacturers with more than 260 full-time employees call the park home. Facilities for a third manufacturer there will begin next year.
Sheridan College also laid a critical foundation to set Sheridan up for many economic successes, including the Weatherby recruitment. The Weatherby CEO said Sheridan College’s machine tool technology program was a deciding factor in his relocation decision.
“At its core, economic development is about laying foundations,” said Robert Briggs, SEEDA administrator. “It’s about having committed community leadership, the capacity to train a skilled workforce and having project-ready property in the community. Ultimately, it’s being able to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.”
Now, thanks to that solid foundation in Sheridan, Weatherby has moved in and hired 74 people, from machinists to engineers. Each Weatherby gun is stamped with "Sheridan, WY" lettering, and much of the company’s marketing strategy now centers on its new home in the Bighorn Mountains of the Wyoming wilderness, serving to not only market the company but the Wyoming tourism industry, as well.
Plus, other manufacturers are now producing parts and crafting marketing products like T-shirts and hats for Weatherby right in Sheridan. Other manufacturers, particularly in the firearms industry, are noticing Wyoming, too. Stag Arms recently announced its relocation from Connecticut to Cheyenne.
“We knew Weatherby was considering other locations, and being offered other incentive packages to entice them to relocate,” Briggs said. “If we wanted to have the best chance of having them choose Sheridan, we had to show them the community was committed to meeting their needs and ready to make a competitive proposal.”
Still, the $12.6 million Business Ready Community grant package SEEDA received as part of the Weatherby project wasn’t without commitment from Weatherby, Briggs explained. The new facility belongs to the SEEDA Joint Powers Board, and Weatherby has a lease purchase agreement for the building, in addition to making their own investments in the facility and the community.
The Economic Impact Deal of the Year award that Briggs accepted this week offered outside affirmation that he and his town are on the right path.
“We’re very honored to be recognized for our preparation, strategic vision and efforts to attract business investment to Sheridan and Wyoming, and we are grateful for Weatherby and other companies that have chosen to start, grow or relocated here,” he said.
The Mid-America Economic Development Council is a multi-state association of economic development professionals who share best practices and add value to their communities. For many years, the group’s annual Economic Development Awards have recognized and stimulated the creative promotion of communities in the 12-state Mid-America region.