Funding Secured to Develop Upton Small Business Plan

Funding Secured to Develop Upton Small Business Plan Main Photo

24 Nov 2020

The community of Upton recently received a boost to help spur local economic development, thanks to more than $40,000 in grant funding provided by state, regional and local sources. The Upton Economic Development Board (UEDB) pulled together the funding and resources to complete a feasibility study on local business assistance and attraction.

The feasibility study will assist Upton develop a master plan to improve the climate for  small businesses by addressing the needs of current business owners, while seeking to bring more businesses to the Upton area. The project is designed to examine existing business strengths, current and future needs and site-specific business opportunities. The study is scheduled to kickoff in January 2021, with estimated completion by April 2021.

“The study would include assessment for a Small Business Resource Center and a Small Business Center-Business Park. The project site is located on eighty acres owned by the UEDB in the Town of Upton,” said Stephanie Salazar, UEDB Executive Director. 

The funding comes from several sources. The largest is a $25,090 Rural Business Development Grant from the United States Department of Agriculture. An additional $10,000 grant will come from Powder River Energy Corporation’s (PRECorp) Wyoming Renewable Energy Credit Program (WyREC), a renewable energy offset program. The UEDB will provide $6,000 to manage the U.S.D.A. grant and study. 

Business Development

The feasibility study aims to help Upton and northeastern Wyoming, which is an area hurt by recent employment losses with closures and bankruptcies in mineral industry businesses over the past five years. The UEDB knew it had to seek innovative business development and employment sources to respond to those losses. The involvement of PRECorp and its WyREC program is an example of an innovative approach. The program is an interaction of multiple energy segments to facilitate business creation, development and services in PRECorp’s communities. The WyREC program offers the sale of renewable energy credits to companies within and outside of the state of Wyoming with sustainability objectives interested in reducing their environmental impact. One such company is Lunavi of Cheyenne, which purchases renewable energy credits from PRECorp, which reinvests those funds in community development projects such as the Upton Feasibility Study.

Strategic Planning

The study will be completed with the assistance of Ayres Associates, a Cheyenne consulting company experienced in strategic planning and economic development and significant interactions with local government and community engagement. The study will build off of the work already completed by the UEDB by identifying  industry sectors and small business opportunities for the proposed small business center and for small businesses serving the nearby Tiger Transfer/Upton Logistics Center.

The study will have three phases. First, Ayres will complete a market analysis from a series of small group and individual interviews to gain insight into the current state of the local economy and identify any gaps that may exist. Second, the group will conduct multi-day workshops to explore development scenarios with local stakeholders. The last phase will be the development of a strategic plan.

An emphasis in the study will be the development possibilities of the creation of a Small Business Resource Center and Small Business Center Business Park. The resource center would be available to small businesses for technical support and other resources. A vision for the Park itself would include an Incubator to provide apprenticeships and enable entrepreneurism, a professional development training center, a workforce center and space for meeting rooms and other flexible options.