Thermopolis Independent Record - Your source for news in Hot Springs County

EDC makes critical future plans

 

December 5, 2019



 The EDC is hibernating.

No, it is not going out of business. It is not dissolving. the Economic Development Company is not bankrupt or completely out of money. But it is close.

 That is why the Board of Directors, along with the Chief Operating Officer, recently made some unique choices about what to do.

At the end of June it seemed there were only two choices: ride it all the way to the end of the funds and dissolve at the end, or keep scratching and clawing and trying to make it work. The board met with Wyoming Business Council staff to discuss what options were available. At that time, a strategic planning meeting was scheduled for January with the hopes of saving the company with a fee-for-service plan.

Many people think that when the business park sold in 2016, EDC made a lot of money. The truth is, they were on the verge of being foreclosed on. The bank had been very gracious and had worked with them for a long time to try and get it sold. They had been making interest-only payments and the bank could no longer keep it on the books.

The timing was good for the Dinosaur Center. EDC was able to pay off all the debts they owed to the bank, the county, the town, etc. and put a bit back into the bank account. Unfortunately, it was not enough to be sustainable or purchase more property and have income.

The county once supported EDC financially, but with economic conditions the way they are in Hot Springs County, they could no longer justify the funds. EDC is supported by the town through in-kind support of an office space and clerical support.

One might be wondering, how do other communities make economic development work?

Well, in the Big Horn Basin, Thermopolis is the only one that is not supported financially by the local governments, and/or does not own property to collect rent from.

In Powell, the EDC, Chamber, and Tourism are all combined. In Big Horn County, the various communities are running EDC through the town governments or are working to combine them with the Chambers. Across the state, each community is different.

Here in Hot Springs County, the EDC has worked on several funding mechanisms to be sustainable and create a revenue stream, including membership with limited success.

In October 2013 The Board hired Cowgirl Consulting, LLC to manage the administrative duties of the company and act as the part-time Chief Executive Officer.

The owner, Amanda Moeller, has been the face of EDC and worked with many business people and would-be entrepreneurs over the years at EDC.

“The hardest lesson I have learned at this job is patience,” Moeller said. “Economic Development is very slow, and sometimes absolutely heartbreaking. I have worked with more than one client for over a year, and either their circumstances change, or they change their mind, or sometimes they pass away, and the project is over, just like that.

“Sometimes, the board members and myself, put a lot of hours into a project for a client and not only is it all at no charge, but it goes completely unrecognized. Not so much as a thank you. This is a hard job, but once in a while you get a win.”

Coming full circle, with no revenue stream and cutting the expenses to the bone, with only a part time contract employee, which means no payroll taxes or benefits, and the phone bill, eventually the bank account gets low.

Before the money was depleted fully, the board had a decision to make.

So at the November board meeting, the choice was made to do nothing. Instead the board chose to suspend memberships and all business activities until further notice. A quarterly board meeting will still be held to maintain the bylaws.

There is a strong feeling amongst the board members that something exciting is coming to Hot Springs State Park. When the time comes, the board wants to be poised to take part or be ready to help where it can and do its job for economic development in Hot Springs County.

“Amanda Moeller has been very helpful to me over the past couple of years with a bad building we have here in town,” said county treasurer Julie Mortimore. “She actively looked for a buyer, had the building secured so people couldn’t use it for smoking and drinking. She also had wildlife photos painted on the front windows to make the area look more appealing.

“She actually found an interested party and brought both the city and me together to try and work out some issues. Granted, the buyer didn’t follow through, but she put a lot of effort into the whole deal.”

Moeller also helped secure grants for the Masonic Lodge when they needed help.

“Malta Lodge #17 here in town has a 114 year old Lodge building,” said Mason Eric Kay. “It has not been professionally updated in decades, so Amanda started helping us about a year and a half ago.

“She brought in a couple of inspectors and helped us with a HAAF grant application that secured an architect who came in and inspected the building.

“This will help the lodge building committee prioritize what we need to work on first and help in securing the funds to do it. It may also lead to the Lodge applying for the National Historic Registry as one of the oldest buildings in Thermopolis.”

Cowgirl Consulting, LLC submitted a letter of resignation, which was accepted. As of December 31, EDC will be “sleeping.” However, Moeller assures the community that she is not going anywhere and should anyone need her, someone has her number. People are also encouraged to contact Fred Crosby at Town Hall with any questions they may have about business needs such as codes, zoning, etc.

 

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