Community Assessment: Infrastructure
The Community Assessment is a critical step in understanding the Cheyenne area’s position and the issues that it faces in an increasingly competitive environment for new jobs, talent, and corporate investment. Below is just a segment from the full Community Assessment report.
Business Climate: Connectivity, Cost, and Other Considerations
Survey respondents who self-identified as a business owner, executive, or manager were asked to answer a series of questions related to Greater Cheyenne’s overall business climate, including questions related to labor costs. These survey respondents were asked to rate the degree to which each attribute was an advantage of disadvantage to existing and prospective new businesses in Greater Cheyenne.
INTERSTATE AND ROADWAY CONNECTIVITY: Interstate accessibility and roadway connectivity were the two most favorably rated elements of the business climate in Greater Cheyenne. The community is located on Interstate 25, which connects the community to Colorado communities, including Fort Collins and Denver, and Interstate 80, which connects the community to Chicago to the east and San Francisco to the west by way of and the University of Wyoming.
AIR AND RAIL CONNECTIVITY: Survey respondents rated passenger air connectivity by far the lowest of all business climate aspects, with 87 percent indicating that they believe this is a disadvantage or significant disadvantage and only 3.0 percent selecting advantage or significant advantage. With respect to the Cheyenne Regional Airport, stakeholders noted that they would like to see more frequent, affordable, and reliable options but understand the limitations of the market. In terms of Denver International Airport, several respondents noted that travel between Denver and Cheyenne can be particularly difficult at times, especially when there is an accident on the interstate.
LABOR COSTS: Generally speaking, business owners and executives view the community’s labor costs as advantageous: over 40 percent of survey respondents felt that the cost of labor in Greater Cheyenne was an advantage or significant advantage to the existing and prospective new businesses, while 16.8 percent felt that they were a disadvantage or major disadvantage.
TAXES AND INCENTIVES: Aside from interstate and roadway connectivity, stakeholders also perceive the local tax environment as advantageous; just six percent of respondents viewed them as a disadvantage or significant disadvantage. These perceptions reflect the general conservative principles that governed the state and community for decades, including the lack of a personal or corporate income tax in Wyoming. However, many stakeholders expressed that the lack of a corporate income tax or gross receipts tax has not been a slam dunk for attracting companies—that they compete heavily with Colorado Front Range communities, which do levy taxes but are able to offer incentives. Many stakeholders expressed that they would like to be able to offer some form of an incentive beyond the provision of land, but state policy prohibits the abatement of other taxes such as property tax. This is also reflected in survey results: 34.8 percent of survey respondents indicated that the availability of economic incentives is a disadvantage or significant disadvantage, compared to 26.5 percent who consider it an advantage or significant disadvantage.
PERMITTING: Generally speaking, the ease and speed of the permit review process is almost invariably one of if not the single worst-evaluated attribute of an area’s business climate. Although the evaluations are, on average, unfavorable (54 percent identify it as a disadvantage or major disadvantage), the degree to which respondents view it as a disadvantage is considerably lower than many other communities. Many other communities are far more negative when it comes to their evaluations of permitting, code enforcement, and other related city services. A number of stakeholders with familiarity of recent changes in staffing and process at the City of Cheyenne were very positive in discussing these changes, exhibiting optimism for the future.
UTILITIES: Many stakeholders mentioned low utility costs as a competitive advantage. However, survey respondents were split on the issue – 30 percent of respondents indicated that cost of utilities is an advantage or significant advantage in Greater Cheyenne while another 28 percent rated it a disadvantage or significant disadvantage. It has been noted that utility providers are strong economic development partners in Greater Cheyenne and across the state, providing incentives for energy-intensive businesses.
INTERNET CONNECTIVITY: Stakeholders noted that while this is a major asset for the area, it is not available to private firms, entrepreneurs, or residents. In fact, high speed internet access was one of the most cited infrastructure needs for Greater Cheyenne. One stakeholder noted, “Cheyenne lacks some of the basic infrastructure that families come to expect. Things like high speed cable are no longer an extravagance, but something that people living here come to expect.” Other survey respondents commented that they would like to see high-speed connectivity citywide and in outlying areas, citing Longmont, Colorado’s citywide fiber-optic internet service supported by taxpayers. Downtown business owners and stakeholders noted that connectivity in the community’s central business district is even a challenge, with some noting that it took them months to receive connectivity.