2013 Look Back: Business booming in Cheyenne

CHEYENNE — Everything’s up to date in the capital city.

Well, not quite. Although Cheyenne is doing well economically, there remains the enduring aesthetic problem with the historic downtown and filling those empty buildings and lots.

First, the bright spots.
Cheyenne is now a national player in the data center world.

Randy Bruns, president of Cheyenne LEADS, the city-Laramie County economic development organization, gave a rundown on the past year-plus:
– Microsoft is completing construction of two data centers in Cheyenne.
– The Echostar data center has been up and running for a year.
– Greenhouse data just broke ground on a new data center in the east business park next to Echostar.

“We’ve gotten the attention of the industry,” Bruns said. “The demand for them is off the charts nationwide, worldwide, really. Everything you do now goes through a data center, everything on your phone, most of what you do on a computer.”

Wyoming is expected to continue getting a share of that business.

“It will depend on how much electricity we ultimately have and under what terms,” Bruns added. “All of these things are huge hogs on electricity.”
Black Hills Power, the parent company of Cheyenne Light, Fuel and Power Co. in southeastern Wyoming, has been willing to work with data centers to ensure power availability. “But that availability isn’t uniform across the state and it depends on the business model of the power company and electrical infrastructure,” Bruns said. Competition, meanwhile, is getting stiff.

“A lot of states like Iowa and Texas are getting aggressive in attracting data centers with some incentives that makes us still a little pricey in comparison,” he said.

Cheyenne LEADS has worked hard to build the infrastructure for the data companies but does not have the total incentive packages that other states can offer.

Swan Ranch Business Park

In other, non-data center development, Searing Industries, a steel tubing manufacturing business, is completing a 200,000 square-foot building in the Swan Ranch Business Park southwest of Cheyenne.

Also to be located in the Swan park is Crown Inc., a company that manufactures a product that keeps deep fryer oil from foaming, said Scott Sutherland of Granite Peak, the Swan Park developer.

Another company’s project under construction will employ 15 to 20 people. Sutherland said the company is not yet ready to make a public announcement.

A crude oil-to-rail facility at the park employs about 45 people.

Granite Peak is working with four other companies that are in various stages of considering relocating to the Swan Ranch park, Sutherland said.

If all four build there, it would mean an additional 400 employees, he added.

The business park already is served by the Burlington Northern railroad. Developers are working on financing to connect the Union Pacific Railroad to the hub.

The city also has the advantage of its location at the intersection of two interstate highways, I-80 and I-25.

One of the major hurdles has been a shortage of water. The park had been served by only a small well. The city of Cheyenne now is constructing a 42-inch main to hook into the existing water supply. “We’re going to have water and access to the Union Pacific pretty quick,” Sutherland said. “Once those two are in, things should really start moving.”

Additionally, Cheyenne Mayor Rick Kaysen noted a new natural gas-fired power plant being build by Cheyenne Light, Fuel and Power five miles southeast of downtown Cheyenne. It is scheduled to go online in 2014.

Downtown sky walk

In the downtown core area, the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center built a new cancer center and new emergency room.

The city will start construction next year on a new public safety center to house the Police Department, fire and rescue and the 911 call center for Laramie County.

The Wyoming Business Council recently approved a $562,248 Business Ready Community grant and $187,500 Business Ready Community loan for the city to build a walkway between the proposed Hilton Garden Inn and the city parking garage. The state Loan and Investment Board, which includes the five elected state officials, is scheduled to vote on the grant and loan in January.

The hotel private investment is estimated at $15 million to $18 million.

Additionally, some remodels, such as the former Dineen’s car dealership, are expected to bring more investment into the downtown area.

The city also is planning a multi-year project called the West Edge Development to improve the western part of downtown Cheyenne. The area targeted for a facelift extends from O’Neil to Snyder avenues and from 16th to 24th streets. It includes abandoned buildings, warehouses and older homes. The plan is to introduce single-family homes or loft-living units as well as businesses, including a supermarket or grocery store.

“One of the good things about this is we’ve seen a lot of interest in this development from private investors,” Kaysen said.

Cheyenne is facing the same problems as other cities with historic buildings in the downtown area. The challenge is to retrofit the buildings to today’s technology and still keep their historical value. “Just because it may be difficult doesn’t mean we stop working to try to bring more activity into downtown Cheyenne,” Kaysen said.

Contact capital bureau reporter Joan Barron at 307-632-1244 or joan.barron@trib.com