Saturday, December 9

Bill Sniffin: Business Forum Is A Statewide Reunion From Across A Big Wyoming

The most diverse group of Wyoming folks from all-across the state held its annual get-together at the Rochelle Center in Laramie this past week.

The 40th annual Governor’s Business Forum sponsored by the Wyoming Heritage Society saw a slew of excellent programs and several nice awards presented.

Freudenthal Bemoans Reliance On Minerals

Former Gov. Dave Freudenthal led a panel that talked about taxes and focused on his recent book, “The Paradox of Plenty.”

Freudenthal gave an opening 20-minute speech about the Wyoming Constitution and how the original founders of the state felt strongly that residents had both the desire and the ability to pay their own way.

“Today we only pay 14% in taxes for what we get in return,” he said, adding that the founders would be surprised to see how this had all turned out.

Freudenthal, a former two-term Democrat who served during possibly the biggest eight-year economic boom in Wyoming history, continued to express his disappointment in how satisfied the Wyoming population is with the status quo, where mineral companies pay the majority of property taxes in the state.

He encouraged people to go back and look at the original state Constitution that was written around the time of statehood in 1890. “It was very progressive,” he said.

In his book, Freudenthal writes: “Wyoming’s reliance, some would argue addiction, to mineral revenues is not the consequence of a single action. A series of decisions and non-decisions over more than 100 years cemented this reliance.”

I had the chance to visit with former first lady Nancy Freudenthal, who is just finishing her 13th year on the federal bench and is looking forward to retirement. When a new judge will be appointed by president Joe Biden isn’t known, she said.

Other members of the panel were excellent. Dr. Joe Schaffer of Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne presented some startling statistics that shows Wyoming falling behind its neighbor South Dakota in key economic areas.

Brenda Henson, director of the Wyoming Department of Revenue, broke down where the state’s revenues come from. It was very educational.

State Rep. Liz Storer, D-Jackson, talked about how much she has learned about the rest of the state by being a legislator. She was puzzled why Laramie has not grown in the last 20 years, implying that other cities with state universities have boomed around the region in recent years.

Dick Scarlett, right, was honored with induction into the Business Hall Of Fame. He is with his former University of Wyoming classmate Chuck Brown of Wheatland. (Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily)

Scarlett, Mathis Honored

Dick Scarlett recalls herding cows at the family ranch in the late fall along the Sweetwater River. It was windy and bitter cold. He was herding with his father, his brother Jack and some cowhands.

“It was at that time that I decided I was going to either sell shoes or work at a bank on Main Street in Lander. I was not going to be a rancher,” he recalled.

Scarlett went on to a career based out of Jackson, where he owned four banks and had 350 employees. He was awarded the Legacy Award in the Wyoming Business Hall of Fame.

His family was one of the founding families of the famous One-Shot Antelope Hunt in Lander. The earliest hunts were held on the Scarlett Ranches located on the North Fork of the Popo Agie River and on the Sweetwater.

Another winner of the Hall of Fame Award was Jim Mathis of Laramie, who bought WyoTech when it had just 11 students. Now the school has more than 1,000 students.

Mathis is a visionary who could see the potential of the floundering school in Laramie and turn it into a regional powerhouse.

He has proven to be a national leader when it comes to workforce training and development.

Two legislators were also honored. Senate President Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, was cited for his amazing leadership. Rep. Barry Crago, R-Buffalo, was given the nod for the House of Representatives.

Statewide Get-Together

We have been attending the Wyoming Business Forum off and on over the last four decades. It was originally built up by the vision and leadership of Bill Schilling, who retired and most recently enjoys the year-around sunshine of Hawaii.

Cindy DeLancey is the head of it now, and she and her crew put together an outstanding program this year.

I was struck by the knowledge and eloquence of Wyoming’s state and business leaders who were presenters on the various programs and panels. They were simply outstanding.

The only two people with the title “Publisher Emeritus” on their name badges were Columnist Bill Sniffin, left, of Cowboy State Daily and Dale Bohren of Casper, publisher emeritus of the Casper Star-Tribune.
The only two people with the title “Publisher Emeritus” on their name badges were Columnist Bill Sniffin, left, of Cowboy State Daily and Dale Bohren of Casper, publisher emeritus of the Casper Star-Tribune. (Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily)

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