Wyoming Economic Overview
The least populous state in the country, Wyoming collects neither individual nor corporate income tax, which makes it attractive to businesses. The state's coal mines supply about 40 percent of the nation’s coal, and its natural gas and petroleum industries are also important. The federal government owns around half of the state’s land in the form of national parks, and mining companies on these lands must pay royalties to the state and federal governments. Tourism is another leading industry, with millions of visitors to Yellowstone National Park and other outdoor sites. The average per-capita income is about $25,000 in Wyoming, and the gross state product is $32 billion.
In the mid 1820s fur traders and trappers were active in the territory that eventually became the state of Wyoming, and oil was discovered there in 1833. By the 1840s, a steady stream of wagon trains was passing through Wyoming on the way to Oregon, and the fur trading posts on the way became settlements on the Oregon Trail.
As styles changed and the fur trade declined, trappers became merchants, providing supplies and horses to pioneers headed westward. South Pass City was founded in 1850 as a stagecoach and telegraph station, and when the Union Pacific Railroad expanded into Wyoming in the 1860s, it expanded into a town as settlers began to arrive.
The discovery of gold in 1866 increased the population of Wyoming to more than 2,500 residents in three settlements. Gold prospecting flourished until 1872, after which miners became discouraged at diminishing deposits and moved elsewhere. However, coal deposits were discovered, attracting additional settlers.
Government-sponsored exploration of the Yellowstone region led to the creation of the world’s first national park in 1872. Cattle ranching became popular in the 1870s, and by 1873 Wyoming’s population reached more than 20,700 people. Copper mines opened in the 1890s, but when this resource was exhausted, miners moved on, leaving behind ghost towns.
Waterpower was used to provide electricity for farms and industries in the middle 1890s. In 1902, J.C. Penney opened his first store in Kemmerer, and in 1904, the first dude ranch in the West was established. By 1920, Wyoming’s population had grown to around 194,400. Oil fields became productive starting in 1922, and trona (the main source of sodium carbonate in the nation and the largest deposit in the world) was discovered in 1939.
New Deal soil conservation programs boosted the state’s agriculture during the Great Depression, but four years of drought in the 1950s led to economic losses. The state’s coal, oil, and natural gas industries benefited from high energy prices during the 1970s to early 1980s, but lower prices in the mid 1980s again dealt a blow to the Wyoming economy, which diversified into tourism and recreation industries.
Wyoming’s nearly 11,000 farms produce some $1.3 billion worth of agricultural products annually, with livestock accounting for $784 million, crops adding $225 million, and forestry and other services contributing $292 million. Top commodities in the state are cattle and calves, at $598 million; hay, at $65 million; hogs, at $61 million; sheep and lambs, at $32 million; and barley, at $31 million. Wyoming ranks second in the nation in sheep ranching, worth $63 million, and wool production, with 3.5 million pounds of wool produced at a value of $3.3 million.
BANKING AND FINANCE
Total assets held by Wyoming’s banks amount to almost $6.4 billion, and total deposits in 2009 were around $5.5 billion. There are 37 FDIC banks operating in Wyoming, and around 11,000 people work in the finance sector.
Wyoming has 19 newspapers, five television stations, and 115 radio stations, including 11 radio stations affiliated with the University of Wyoming. No fewer than 59 competitive local exchange carrier (CLECs) and 210 long-distance telephone companies compete in Wyoming, and residents of the state’s 13 largest communities have access to cable voice telecommunications.
There are roughly 22,000 workers in Wyoming’s construction industry. Nonresidential construction spending is around $1.8 billion annually, and the average annual wage in construction is $44,800, which is some 15 percent more than other private sector employees earn. Most (94 percent) of the state’s approximately 3,000 construction companies employ fewer than 20 workers.
Some 86,000 students are enrolled in Wyoming’s 379 primary and secondary public schools. The average expenditure per child is about $10,000, and for every teacher there are roughly 13 students. Teachers earn an average annual salary of $43,000. Federal funds received for these schools amount to $111 million, state funds add $721 million, and local funds contribute $642 million. Out of the four four-year universities and nine two-year colleges in Wyoming, the University of Wyoming is the largest, with 13,000 students, 2,000 faculty and staff members, and an endowment of $304 million.
About 96 percent of Wyoming’s electricity is generated from coal, with hydroelectric and renewable sources at two percent each. Thirty other states also get their coal from Wyoming. In addition, the state produces around 10 percent of the natural gas used in the U.S. and possesses some of the largest oil and gas fields in the country. Industry consumes the most energy, followed by transportation. Wyoming ranks seventh in the nation in wind energy potential, and has 350 megawatts worth of installed wind energy capacity.
From 2007 to 2009, Wyoming’s film office grew 25 percent in response to film industry financial incentive legislation passed in 2007. The three feature film projects (two documentaries and a wildlife television series) that were produced in Wyoming in 2009 had direct expenditures of more than $1 million for local goods and services. The state assisted with a total of 68 commercials, feature films, television episodes, and documentary projects. Wyoming hosts two annual film festivals, and entries to its short film contest have more than doubled since it began in 2008.
Some 72,000 Wyoming residents lack health insurance, and about 75,800 elderly residents are on Medicare. Every year some $26 million in uncompensated medical care is partially paid for by the state through premium taxes paid for by employed residents. Only 34 percent of Wyoming’s small businesses offer health insurance plans to their employees. Wyoming’s crop insurance industry issues around 3,600 policies annually to insure more than eight million acres. Annual premiums paid amount to some $18.4 million.
Wyoming’s 1,300 manufacturers produce some $5.5 billion worth of goods and employ 9,000 workers at a total payroll of $352 million. Around half of the manufacturers have fewer than five employees. Industrial machinery and equipment accounts for around a third of jobs, followed by chemicals and allied products, and fabricated metal products.
MINING AND EXTRACTION
Coal mining is of great importance to the economy of Wyoming, which leads the nation in coal production. Gold, iron, various clays, and uranium are leading nonfuel materials extracted in the state. The largest coal mine in the country, Black Thunder, is located near Wright, Wyoming, and the largest reserves of trona (used for manufacturing glass, pharmaceuticals, and baking soda, among other uses) in the world are located in the state.
Around $2.5 billion in taxes, levies, and royalties are paid to the state and federal government by the oil and gas industry. Some 200 mining operations are based in Wyoming, employing nearly 14,000 people at a total annual payroll of $990 million. The average annual wage is $73,000, which is 86 percent more than the average wage in the rest of the state. More than $6.7 billion worth of minerals, metals, and fuels are extracted by Wyoming’s miners. Coal mining alone employs 8,600 workers at a total annual salary of $650 million.
Of the roughly 8,200 nonprofit organizations operating in Wyoming, 2,200 are charitable organizations, 700 are educational organizations, and 430 are religious organizations. The rest include social welfare organizations, recreational clubs, or organizations of war veterans. Total assets reported by the organizations are $4.5 billion, and total income is $2.5 billion. The average asset amount reported is $2.3 million, and the average income is $1.2 million.
Some 2,900 retail stores employ around 31,600 workers at an annual payroll of $728 million. As in many states, Walmart is a significant presence, with 10 supercenters employing more than 4,500 workers. Aside from spending $47 million for merchandise and services from 214 suppliers in Wyoming, Walmart pays around $30 million annually in state sales tax and pays more than $3.6 million in state and local corporate taxes.
Wyoming’s bioscience sector consists of five agricultural feedstock and chemicals companies, six pharmaceutical firms, 23 medical devices and equipment establishments, and 44 research, testing, and medical laboratories. About $51 million is spent on academic bioscience research each year, with $22 million going to the agricultural sciences sector. More than 90 bioscience patents were issued to Wyoming bioscience companies and universities within the last six years.
Wyoming has 12,448 miles (20,033 km) of highways and 41 public airports. There are three interstate highways in the state, of which I-80 is the most heavily traveled, with some 13,000 vehicles per day, half of them heavy trucks carrying freight. Wyoming’s Department of Transportation employees around 2,000 people, and its annual budget of approximately $686 million consists of $379 million in federal funds and the rest in general funds. The Jackson Hole Airport is one of only two airports in the country situated in a national park (the other is in Massachusetts). Located at the base of the Teton Mountains within Grand Teton National Park, the terminal was built in the shape of a log cabin. Jackson Hole has some 30,000 takeoffs and landings a year, some of which include transporting live cattle.
TRAVEL AND TOURISM
Every year some six million tourists come to see Wyoming’s rodeos, state fair, national parks, and monuments. About half of them travel specifically to see Yellowstone National Park, which contains the famous Old Faithful geyser and more than 10,000 other geysers and hot springs. Devil’s Tower was declared the first national monument in the country, and the tree trunk-shaped monolith attracts nearly 400,000 yearly visitors. The tourism industry brings in more than $2 billion annually, and Wyoming’s Department of Tourism has an annual budget of $14 million.
Trona mined in Wyoming accounts for 25 percent of the world’s supply. Soda ash is a refined product of trona, and the current U.S. soda ash industry is dominated by Wyoming’s five companies and California’s one. With around 127 billion tons of trona reserves, the state has the largest supply in the world. More than 90 percent of the metals sector in Wyoming is trona mining, which has a direct output of $60 million and employs 4,800 workers at an annual payroll of $320 million.
-World Trade Press