Wyoming’s economy differs significantly from those of other states. Contributing 28.4% to the state’s GDP in 2012, the mineral extraction industry is the main economic driver. Travel and tourism also generate revenue and provide employment opportunities. In 2012, nearly seven million people visited Wyoming’s national parks and monuments and each year, Yellowstone National Park receives over 3.4 million visitors. The state’s unemployment rate for 2013 was approximately 4.7%, much lower than the national average of 7.5%. Historically, agriculture has been a major component of Wyoming’s identity, culture, and lifestyle. As the economy continues to develop in multiple directions, Wyoming’s focus is branching to increase its attention to education, technology, and diversity.
Schools and Education
Wyoming has one of the best funded school systems in the country. Since 2002, 66 new schools have been built, adding 4.3 million square feet of modern education space. Thirty-two schools have been remodeled. The Hathaway Scholarship Program has enabled students to afford higher education. College tuition rates in Wyoming are lower than nearly anywhere else in the country.
Wyoming is developing a solid educational foundation that meets the expressed needs of employers and state agencies by integrating science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in our K-12 school system, and extending this approach through Wyoming’s community colleges and the University of Wyoming (UW). The creation of UW’s School of Energy Resources, Energy Innovation Center, Michael B. Enzi STEM Facility, and Engineering Research Facility and the planning for the new College of Engineering and Applied Sciences facility demonstrate Wyoming’s commitment to science, technology, engineering and mathematics education. Wyoming is building more and more bridges between academics and industry.
Technology and Diversification
The economy is growing in new directions. A technology sector is evolving from the expansion of broadband connectivity. Access to high speed Internet is attracting data centers and start-up technology companies. Between 2010 and 2011 high speed Internet increased from 54 percent to 85 percent. Over two-thirds of Wyoming students now have access to high speed Internet. This is, in part, thanks to investments from the private sector and state funding that was made possible from revenue provided by the energy industry. Affordable power is another draw. The average price of electricity in Wyoming is the lowest in the U.S. at 6.2 cents per kilowatt-hour.
Wyoming’s energy and natural resources create our economic prosperity. We know that the two are intrinsically tied to our economy and, together, they are how and why we live here. The U.S. is poised to become energy independent, while still helping the global economy meet its growing energy demands. Yet, the national debate seems stuck in the rhetorical question: “Do we want development or do we want to preserve the environment?” The fact is that we want both, and we need both. As we look at Wyoming, as we look at our nation, and as we look at the energy demands of today and future energy demands, we know that when it comes to energy, we have to maintain our commitment to having both.
Wyoming will achieve excellence in energy development, production, and stewardship of its natural resources for the highest benefit of its citizens.
For more information, visit: