The goal of the Wyoming Technology Business Center Incubation Program is to provide development assistance to early-stage Wyoming businesses preparing for high growth. Business assistance is offered through the Wyoming Technology Business Center (WTBC) staff and focuses on four important aspects of growing a business; sales and marketing, organizational structure, financial and information systems, and ongoing strategic planning. Through this work, the WTBC is creating a fertile business environment that will assist in the diversification of Wyoming’s economy. Because of the success of the incubator program in Laramie, the WTBC’s mission is to grow the program across the state. Recently, an incubator was added in Casper, Wyoming, and there are plans for another location to be opened in Gillette. In addition to expanding our own program, the WTBC also works with other established incubators, such as Forward Sheridan of Sheridan, WY to achieve a statewide presence.
Wyoming experienced the same technology boom in the late 90’s as the rest of the United States, with the only real difference being that nothing happened. Wyoming’s overdependence on the extraction of minerals from its abundant supply forced the state to sit out one of the most wildly successful times in US economic history. The state learned that it is crucial for Wyoming to take a proactive stance when it comes to growing the economy. Additionally, Wyoming faces the problem that its highly educated young population tends to leave the state due to a lack of diversity in employment opportunities.
The Wyoming Technology Business Center is a business development program located on the University of Wyoming campus. Opening in 2006, our 30,000 square-foot facility offers laboratory, office, and shared conference room space for client companies as well as collocation space in a state-of-the-art data center. The WTBC focuses on developing early stage, technology-based companies, with an emphasis on high-growth firms. All client companies located in the incubator, including many begun by UW students, have access to one-on-one business counseling and executive coaching services provided by the WTBC staff. Statewide networking opportunities are available through an educational networking group called e2e (Entrepreneur to Entrepreneur) Wyoming. Success of the WTBC in Laramie, and the desire for many students to start a business in other locations across Wyoming, has led to our expansion into other communities across the state. The expansion has provided countless opportunities for other small businesses and the development of Wyoming’s economy.
The WTBC provides assistance to a wide variety of businesses. By striving to be business process experts rather than business sector experts, we can provide value to all types of companies regardless of their sector focus. The WTBC staff offers one-on-one business counseling that focuses on sales and marketing, organizational structure, financial and information systems, and ongoing strategic planning. While most companies go through predictable stages of growth (Pre-Venture, Start-up, First Growth, and Stability) the counseling process is tailored to the company’s respective stage of development. With our help, early-stage, high-growth companies advance through predictable stages of business development. The WTBC can help businesses grow larger and faster than they would otherwise by helping the client understand the demands and achieve the goals of each stage.
The WTBC has found that the best way to stimulate Wyoming’s economic development is to proactively develop programs to seek out community engagement. Results of the program show that the WTBC has filled a gap in the development of Wyoming’s economy.
The WTBC’s Outreach Program has led to 3 collaborations that have resulted in the start-up of three businesses. The program has also lead to over a dozen collaborations to assist existing businesses as well as seven collaborations of shared interests. To date the WTBC has graduated five clients from its Laramie incubator, that have annual revenues between two to five million, employee on average twenty people with an average salary of $65,000. A publicly traded company recently acquired one of these companies for an undisclosed amount. To date the WTBC has worked with over fifty companies between its Incubation and Outreach Programs.
Despite demographic variations across the state of Wyoming, the Wyoming Technology Business Center Incubation Program has proven to be replicable and scalable. Because WTBC staff focuses on being business process experts, we can easily apply our program in any location and tailor it to help local businesses grow successfully. This can be demonstrated by the increasing interest other regions of the state have shown in bringing an incubator to their respective locations.
Multiple community economic development agencies have committed to expanding the WTBC model to improve their local business conditions. Recently, an incubator was opened in Casper, WY, and there are plans for another location to be built in Gillette. These locations see the value of the WTBC program and have already committed to secure funding to ensure that these incubators can enter their communities. Because there are always new businesses being formed and because we encourage businesses to collaborate, there is always a steady stream of new ideas and start-ups that need the services provided by the WTBC. As we continue to help businesses succeed, more start-ups and early-stage companies are beginning to seek us out for our knowledge and expertise in growing businesses in Wyoming’s economy. The multiple partnerships we have developed with economic development groups across the state demonstrate how sustainable the WTBC’s program can be in the future.
UEDA Awards of Excellence Finalists presented at the Annual Summit in Pittsburgh on October 28, 2013. Summit attendees then voted for the best initiative in each category.