Business briefs | Business Briefs

Wyoming small business owners answer fuel tax poll, other questions

CHEYENNE —The National Federation of Independent Business released the results of a statewide membership poll on Thursday, Dec. 17, to help provide the next session of the Wyoming Legislature some ideas as to where its Main Street enterprises stand.

“Our members are firmly decided on three of the poll questions,” said Tony Gagliardi, Wyoming state director for NFIB. “I think what the response to the fuel tax question shows is a willingness to consider a well-thought-out plan for funding highway maintenance and construction, and not simply issuing a blank check for the job.”

NFIB polls its members annually on state and federal issues affecting their right to own, operate, and grow their businesses. Unique among member associations, results from the annual polls center NFIB’s lobbying positions in Cheyenne and in Washington, D.C.

The 2021 Wyoming state member ballot asked four questions. The results follow:

  • Should Wyoming impose a sales tax on services? – Yes 13.56%, No 81.36%, Undecided 5.08%
  • Should any employee who tests positive for COVID-19 be presumptively compensated by workers’ compensation? – Yes 14.41%, No 75.42%, Undecided 10.17%
  • Should Wyoming increase its fuel tax, and/or a road usage fee – a vehicle miles traveled tax (VMT) – if all transportation revenues collected are used exclusively for highway maintenance and construction? – Yes 32.48%, No 58.12%, Undecided 9.40%
  • Should businesses be protected from frivolous and unmerited COVID-related lawsuits? – Yes 94.87%, No 0.85%, Undecided 4.27%.

Wyoming occupational fatalities increased in 2019

CHEYENNE – The Research & Planning section of the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services reported Wednesday, Dec. 16, that the number of occupational fatalities in Wyoming rose slightly from 31 in 2018 to 32 in 2019 (an increase of one death, or 3.2%).

From 1992 to 2019, Wyoming averaged 33 occupational fatalities each year, making the 32 deaths that occurred in 2019 slightly lower than average.

Variations in fatalities from year to year are, to some extent, the result of the random nature of work-related accidents. Furthermore, there is not always a direct relationship between workplace fatalities and workplace safety. For example, suicides and homicides that occur in the workplace are included as occupational fatalities. Workplace fatalities are counted in the state where the injury occurred, not necessarily the state of residence or the state of death.

In 2019, 15 deaths occurred in trade, transportation, & utilities (or 46.9% of all deaths). Twelve deaths were reported in transportation & warehousing (37.5%) and eight deaths were reported in natural resources & mining (25.0%). Construction, wholesale trade, and leisure & hospitality each had three deaths (9.4%).

Across all industries, nearly two-thirds of 2019 deaths (65.6%) were the result of transportation incidents. From 2003 to 2019, transportation incidents made up 57.1% of all workplace deaths. Transportation incidents include highway crashes, pedestrian vehicular incidents, aircraft incidents, and water vehicle incidents.

The fatality counts featured in this release are compiled by the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) program (a joint effort of Research & Planning and the Bureau of Labor Statistics) and may not match those from other programs, such as data published by Wyoming’s State Occupational Epidemiologist.

Trump Administration highlights record levels of investment in to build rural prosperity

WASHINGTON, D.C. – USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Bette Brand today highlighted the department’s investments in 2020 that are building prosperity and strengthening the nation’s rural businesses and communities.

“Under the leadership of President Donald J. Trump and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, USDA invested a record $40 billion in rural communities in 2020,” Brand said. “This assistance is helping increase economic opportunities and improving the quality of life for rural residents across the 50 states and all U.S. territories.

Brand added, “USDA responded with urgency to help those affected by the COVID-19 global pandemic. We worked to bring high-speed internet capacity, modern community facilities, and upgraded water and wastewater infrastructure to rural areas. We helped provide homeownership opportunities and reliable electricity. We invested in businesses and family-supporting jobs, because when rural America thrives, all of America thrives.”

A summary of USDA’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 accomplishments:

  • Invested $1.3 billion to support rural broadband expansion through the ReConnect Pilot Program. Included in this total is $85 million provided through the CARES Act. In total, these investments are connecting approximately 280,000 households, 19,978 farms and 10,053 businesses to high-speed internet.
  • Invested a record $6.3 billion in 125 projects to upgrade or build electric infrastructure. These investments will benefit 10.7 million customers by improving electric service reliability across 34 states.
  • Invested $801 million in Smart Grid technology to improve electric system operations and monitor grid security for rural electric customers.
  • Invested $2.1 billion to expand access to safe drinking water and improve wastewater management systems. These investments will improve the reliability of local water supply for 2.1 million rural Americans.
  • Invested $140 million through the Community Facilities Programs in rural infrastructure projects such as roads, airports and transportation improvements.
  • Invested $22.4 million through the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program (HBIIP) to increase the availability of renewable fuels derived from U.S. agricultural products. These investments will help increase biofuels sales by a projected 150 million gallons annually.
  • Invested $1.7 billion to assist 384 rural businesses through the Business and Industry (B&I) Loan Guarantee Program. Included in this total was $326 million provided through the CARES Act. These investments created or saved nearly 18,000 jobs.
  • Invested more than $386 million in 2,304 loan and grants through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) for energy efficiency improvements, renewable energy systems, and energy development assistance in rural businesses. These investments are projected to generate or save more than 1.8 billion kWh.

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.

Forces that will shape the U.S. rural economy in 2021

DENVER – The speed of the economic recovery will largely hinge on the availability, dissemination and reach of COVID-19 vaccines, pushing the expected burst of pent-up consumer demand into the latter half of 2021, according to a comprehensive year-ahead outlook report from CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange division.

“The coming year will be a recovery year for most Americans and the businesses that make up the U.S. economy,” said Dan Kowalski, vice president of CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange division. “The early part of the year should look very different than the latter, but in total, economic growth is estimated to be about 4%, following a retreat of roughly 4% in 2020.”

CoBank’s 2021 outlook report examines key factors that will shape agriculture and market sectors that serve rural communities throughout the U.S. They include:

  • Global economy – CoBanks sees an uneven recovery ahead with COVID continuing to steer the global economy in 2021. Of all major economies, China recovered the fastest from the pandemic and will finish 2020 in remarkably good economic shape while Europe has suffered the most. Perhaps one of the longest lingering impacts from COVID will be the mountains of debt absorbed by most governments around the world.
  • U.S. economy – COVID still is the economy. A post-COVID bounce is coming to the U.S. in 2021, but it’s unlikely to happen soon. Much of the year’s economic trajectory will depend on fiscal policy decisions made over the next couple of months. Roughly 10 million Americans who lost their jobs early in the pandemic have yet to find work, and many of them are receiving some form of public support. If and how Congress chooses to fund further relief will impact the speed of the recovery. Throughout the first half of the coming year, many businesses will be just trying to keep the doors open. Optimism, however, should spur investment in the first half of the year. Not all things will return to the way they were, though. Some industries may never fully recover.
  • Monetary Policy – If there is an economic hero amidst the pandemic, it is most certainly the central banks. The Federal Reserve in particular stabilized the global financial system within weeks of the pandemic taking hold, and it continues to provide massive amounts of economic support. With short term interest rates firmly at zero, the Federal Reserve will manage a few levers in the coming year, advocating for fiscal policy and keeping a close watch on longer-term rates and inflation.
  • Farm economy – Higher commodity prices and low interest rates will be an important financial buffer to net farm income in 2021 with the federal government’s role in farm payments expected to greatly diminish. The federal government was the source of more than one-third of U.S. net farm income in 2020 with USDA providing extraordinary payments through a variety of programs. Crop prices have been bolstered by robust Chinese purchases and dry growing conditions in key growing regions of the world. Historically low interest rates will lower borrowing costs for farmers and ranchers. The value of farmland, which is an important source of equity for farmers and ranchers, is also expected to remain stable in 2021.
  • Grain, farm supply and biofuels – The grain and farm supply sectors enter 2021 on reasonably firm footing supported by rising commodity prices, farmer stability and favorable domestic fuel, feed and food usage, as well as firm export demand, especially from China. The outlook for grain is more favorable than a year ago, although carry has evaporated with the inversion of futures prices. The outlook for farm supply cooperatives is positive for 2021 following a very orderly harvest, rising grain prices and decent farm liquidity. The ethanol outlook is stable but guarded, with considerable growth and margin opportunities favoring ethanol co-products vs. fuel.
  • Dairy and animal protein – A rising cost environment stemming from higher feed prices will challenge the dairy and animal protein sector’s ability to return to pre-COVID margin levels in 2021. Corn and soybean meal prices have reached multi-year highs with the futures curves indicating still higher costs in the months ahead. China’s rebuilding of the nation’s hog herd brings into question its appetite for foreign protein in 2021 as supplies climb. Domestically, the animal protein and dairy sectors will be entering 2021 with still greater uncertainty in foodservice demand as COVID-19 cases surge to new highs and restaurant closures are expected to soar.

DMTI celebrates first anniversary

LARAMIE – Disruptive MedTech LLC – a provider of custom, innovative, private-branded medical devices –  celebrated its first anniversary of business in mid-December.

DMTI came into being after a group of businessmen realized the desire of hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers to work directly with the manufacturers of their implantable devices. A clear gap in the market was seen and it was believed DMTI could, with the right infrastructure and expertise fill that gap.

DMTI spent its early days in the IMPACT 307 building, formerly the Wyoming Business and Technology Center on the University of Wyoming Campus.

In that business incubator DMTI began working with Marrow Access Technologies to bring to market its SmartShot device through DMTI’s contract manufacturing arm. The company also partners in sales with Mahe Medical USA.

With the progression of the Covid-19 Virus and closing of surgery centers, DMTI pivoted to provide the highest quality Personal Protection Equipment to facilities throughout the United States. That work continues as does the development of new technologies and devices aimed at lowering costs and increasing the quality of medical treatment provided by our clients.

The company has enjoyed the support of the Laramie Chamber Business Alliance, Albany County, and the Wyoming Business Council over the year. This support has led to growth in employees and a move to its new facility on Beech Street in Laramie, where the team has built a clean room, production and staging areas, and warehousing to take the company into the future.

Transportation Commission awards contracts for highway work

CHEYENNE – Construction will soon start on a $26.6 million contract to construct a new interchange off Interstate 80 and perform other work near Rock Springs. The Wyoming Transportation Commission awarded Reiman & High Country Construction JV Limited Partnership, of Cheyenne, the $26.6 million work in Sweetwater County.

For the I-80 work, crews will build the new interchange to improve traffic flow and access to businesses in the city. The Wyoming Department of Transportation is working with the city of Rock Springs on the project, which also includes replacing an overpass that was previously closed, installing a new road and widening a bridge over a creek. The contract completion date is June 30, 2023.

The commission also awarded work to companies on four other resurfacing and bridge repair projects totaling $37.7 million at its December meeting:

  • The commission awarded Reiman Corp., of Cheyenne, a $6 million contract for concrete slab repair, bridge work and overlay work on about 4 miles of I-80 beginning at the intersection of Curtis and Third Streets in Laramie in Albany County. Crews will make concrete repairs to the surface, make various repairs to about 10 bridges and add a high-performance overlay to the road, with the exception of the bridges, to improve the road surface. The contract completion date is Oct. 31, 2022.
  • McGarvin-Moberly Construction Co., of Worland, won a $4.6 million contract for a resurfacing project on eight miles of Interstate 25 between Glendo and Douglas in Converse County. Crews will mill and overlay 3 inches of road and will use the old material on the median by the cable barrier. Then they will then resurface the road with 4 inches of material.
  • $243,287 to Reiman Corp. for a bent cap replacement bridge contract on WYO 239 at the Salt River Bridge between Freedom and the Idaho state line in Lincoln County by Oct. 31, 2021.
  • $47,355 to S & L Industrial, of Cowley, for bridge railing modification, guardrail and other work on I-80 between Rawlins and Laramie in Carbon County by June 30, 2021.