Cowboy State Capital

City of Cheyenne

“We are a quintessential western town that has grown up to have the amenities to be a good place to live and do business,” summarizes Cheyenne LEADS CEO Randy Bruns.

The city’s history began in 1867, when railroad workers began setting up camp in the area. “Cheyenne is really a creation of the Union Pacific back when the transcontinental railroad was being pushed across the country,” Mr. Bruns explains. “That is our heritage. That is why we are here.” Decades later, Cheyenne’s central location still plays a key role in the city’s economy. “The influence of those transportation networks has continued to be a factor in our community,” Mr. Bruns points out. “We are at the crossroads of two transportation systems.” In addition to its placement along two Class I railroads, Cheyenne is located at the intersection of Interstate 80, which runs from the east to west coast, and Interstate 25, which runs north to south. “That is a sweet spot, the intersection of those two interstates.”

Cheyenne’s location along this transportation network also means that a large amount of fiber optic cables pass through the area. “We are extraordinarily well positioned, sitting astride several transcontinental fiber optic pathways,” Mr. Bruns shares. Cheyenne is also a part of the Front Range Urban Corridor, which runs along the eastern face of the Southern Rocky Mountains. “That’s an economic corridor that stretches roughly from New Mexico through all of Colorado and well into Wyoming,” Mr. Bruns explains. While Cheyenne only has a population of around 60,000, there are around 88,000 people within a ten mile radius of the city, and approximately 4.5 million within the surrounding Front Range Urban Corridor.

The city’s location, business friendly policies, and diverse economy have helped it stay ahead. “Our economy is strong,” Mr. Bruns remarks. “Unemployment is low.” And the numbers have been strong for some time, even during the downturn. “We went into the recession late and came out early. As far as the big picture, it was almost a non-event for us. We are back to prerecession levels of employment. And we continue to expand employment in the community.”

The largest employer in Cheyenne is government. Not only is the state and county government based there, but the city is home to federal government offices as well. “Half of the surface of Wyoming is actually owned by the federal government,” Mr. Bruns explains. “This is true of a lot of western states.” This means that multiple federal agencies have a presence in Cheyenne, including the Bureau of Land Management and Federal courts. “About 30 percent of our employment is government. That provides a certain stability. As the region has gone through its ups and downs, our ups and downs are a little less dramatic, which is helpful.”

Cheyenne also has a solid manufacturing base and a strong tech / communications sector. “One of the reasons that we have had success with technology is that we are so well situated on the national fiber network,” Mr. Bruns explains. Microsoft has two large data centers there and Echo Star Communications has been a major employer since the early 1990s. “Their primary uplink facility for the Dish Network is here. The Echo Star Fleet of communication satellites in geosynchronous orbit are all managed from here. If you are on the Dish Network anywhere in the United States your signals are originating here in Cheyenne.” Cheyenne continues to attract leading edge technology initiatives. “The National Center for Atmospheric Research has recently relocated its supercomputer center here to Cheyenne. The technology sector is important to us and we are consciously trying to build on it.”

The energy industry also has a strong impact on Cheyenne. “Wyoming is in the top three natural gas producing states,” Mr. Bruns says, and the region is also rich in coal and soda ash. While the majority of energy production takes place in other areas of Wyoming, the capital city still benefits from the nearby boom. “As the state capital, our politics and our budget are impacted by that.” In addition, an increasing number of companies that support the energy sector are choosing Cheyenne for their home base. “A lot of them are anchoring here,” Mr. Bruns remarks.

Cheyenne is also an ideal site for wind energy. “We have what they call ‘high quality’ wind,” Mr. Bruns explains. The city is located 1,000 feet above Denver and 6,200 feet above sea level, and this high elevation “tends to make certain areas of the state more wind prone.” The University of Wyoming, located 45 miles away in Laramie, has been involved in some exciting alternative energy projects that take advantage of these reliable winds. As a result, “there are multiple wind turbine projects either underway or that have been permitted, as well as some significant wind farms that have been in existence for years.”

The city is eager to welcome new businesses, but isn’t looking to attract any one industry. “We try not to target too sharply, because then you could miss an industry that might be a good fit. And, we want to continue to have a good mix, rather than get too zeroed in on any one industry; that provides some diversity of opportunities. If we get too concentrated in any one area we start to have some vulnerabilities that a larger community might not have.”

While many people relocating to Cheyenne are there for job opportunities, others are simply chasing a lifestyle. “There is a western casualness and hospitality,” Mr. Bruns shares. “The quality of life is why I live here,” adds Annie Wood, LEADS Director of Marketing & Communications. “We have a young family and we love it here. The people in this city, and in the state, there is something about them. They are good people.”

People who come to Cheyenne craving land and open skies will find plenty available. “There are a lot of rural residential properties all around the city,” Mr. Bruns reports. “That is part of the quality of life. People who want a little separation from neighbors and a few acres can get that.” These residents can enjoy an ideal balance of privacy and community involvement, he adds. “We are ‘live and let live.’ It is really easy to be off on your own – nobody is going to bother you – but the minute you think you want to be involved, boy, can you be involved. There are all kinds of opportunities for community involvement.”

Furthermore, Cheyenne’s smaller size and laid back culture means that everyone’s voice can be heard. “Individuals who want to get involved can actually make a difference. You don’t get lost here. You can come in, get on a board, and actually have an influence and see the impact of your actions. I think that speaks to people.” This also means that high ranking officials don’t hide away in ivory towers. “There aren’t the barriers and the layers that tend to separate people,” Mr. Bruns remarks. “We have great access to our local government officials and even our state officials. If you are here in Cheyenne, you are just as likely to run into the governor as your next door neighbor. That sort of shared experience really has value, especially to business leaders.”

Cheyenne residents also have access to a great school system. “Wyoming is one of the top states in terms of dollars spent per pupil,” Mr. Bruns reports. “Wyoming has always committed significant resources into education, both the K through 12 level and the University level; we have a really good education system from top to bottom.” In addition, “any student who graduates from high school has access to the Hathaway scholarship program to go to the university or community colleges.”

Of course, outdoor recreation also brings people to Cheyenne. “We are on the high plains, so we look like we are out in the middle of nowhere to some people, but we have access to great outdoor activities. Rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking, fishing, kayaking; a lot of people who are here are here because of the outdoor activities.”

From outdoor recreation to economic prosperity, people are finding plenty of reasons to come to Cheyenne. Once a Wild West town, the capital of the Cowboy State is now home to a wealth of modern opportunities.

July 16, 2018, 6:44 AM EDT

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