Public Policy Impacts Economic Development – Lessons from 2019
Friday, March 29, 2019
Wyoming’s 2019 legislative session is complete. Thank you to everyone who made their voice heard and advocated for key issues impacting economic development in Wyoming. We encourage you to continue to be involved with the WEDA legislative committee, and to watch for updates during the interim session. The Management Council met on Friday to assign interim topics and there are many different issues that we will keep you up to date on over the next year.
Public policy and economic development are closely connected.
Public policy directly impacts our ability to promote economic development initiatives, and ultimately our state economy. Legislation has the power to provide tools, incentives and other economic development resources. Actively participating in the legislative process is how we influence outcomes, and WEDA encourages all members to be engaged.
During the 2019 legislative session, we issued several Calls to Action, designed to increase member engagement and advocate for legislation that supports our mission. This included calls to support SF-111 and SF-122, which will provide dollars and resources for our local community colleges which are a crucial part of our local economic development efforts. Senate File 111 provides the opportunity for community colleges to offer Bachelor of Applied Science degrees. The data around the state shows that Wyoming has one of the lowest rates of Bachelors degrees in the country. While, this legislation will not solve the whole issue, it provides a step forward. Senate File 122 is the Wyoming Works that provides dollars for non-traditional scholarships and for creating high-need workforce certificate programs. Both of these pieces of legislation will help build the existing workforce. This in turn, will help grow existing businesses and help recruit new businesses to our communities.
During the interim session, the Joint Education Committee will be reviewing the impact that these bills have on the funding formula for our community colleges. WEDA will keep an eye on these discussions and we encourage you to continue to be involved with these conversations both locally and at the state level.
Every voice and every vote counts.
While WEDA was successful in supporting some legislation, other bills were not as successful. For example, Senate File 0016 would have provided communities with the ability to create community development districts and HB 66 would have created a state-wide lodging tax. While we were not successful in passing these bills in 2019, it does not mean there will not be an opportunity in the future.
The WEDA legislative committee will continue to look at how we support resources such as community development districts or lodging taxes. WEDA members and community leaders who are in support of these ideas have the opportunity to work to garner support for these initiatives throughout the rest of 2019. This may include distributing information on social media, through newsletters and in conversations with business owners and stakeholders. Demonstrating to the legislature that there is a high level of support for these districts or the tax is the best way to promote both of these ideas as economic development tools.
Members will also want to keep an eye on bills that died this term, but may come up again in future sessions. These include wind energy taxes and specific retail taxes. These are bills that have the potential to substantially impact many of our communities and members will want to make sure they know what their community needs and supports.
Pro-economic development public policy requires a long-term strategy.
We encourage members to take a long-term approach to public policy and economic development. It is important to remember that it can take years to raise awareness for an issue, lobby for a piece of legislation and to see that legislation passed. The effort is worth it. This type of long-term approach has created numerous opportunities for economic expansion in Wyoming. For example, the blockchain bills were several years in the making and now, Wyoming is the premier state for blockchain related companies. Likewise, broadband has been a huge issue in the state for many years and through the hard work over time, Wyoming is now ready to make a significant positive impact in this area.
It is vital for WEDA members and community leaders to identify the types of funding and legislation that would benefit their local economies. Additionally, members should build relationships with their local legislators and speak with local legislators about their needs often. Continue to advocate and work with legislators to craft legislation that can work to provide solutions. Local legislators are elected to help, but they do not always realize the challenges local businesses and economies are having. WEDA members are on the ground, have a front row seat to what is happening and are an excellent source of information, solutions and advocacy. The voice of WEDA and its members has continued to grow over the last few years and more and more legislators are looking to us to lead the discussion for the improvement of our state and communities.