ORBIS JOURNAL

Strategies for agriculture development

January 29, 2021

When Central Wyoming College asked if there were opportunities in agriculture, we identified $81 million of products and services purchased outside the region.

In February of 2019, Central Wyoming College (CWC) hired the team at Orbis Advantage to identify opportunities for community and regional economic development.  Specifically, the focus was on agriculture.  The college wished to enhance their role as a catalyst for economic growth in the area.  The Sector Strategy for Agriculture highlighted opportunities at the college, in the county, and in the region for economic and agricultural diversification.  

Charting strategies for growth

Through our economic research and industry experience, we help our clients chart growth strategies.

The first step in this large project was to generate economic and agricultural profiles, describing Fremont County and the region.  Those profiles provided vital information to our clients and to both existing and potential businesses in the area.  We applied the information gleaned in creating the profiles to a SWOT analysis.  This analysis helped to identify the importance of CWC, as a regional hub for innovation and education, and as a main economic driver in the area.

To quantify the value of the college and the opportunity it has as an economic engine, the next step in the project was to describe the economics of the regional agricultural value chain. 

Agriculture Value Chain. Source: Agricultural and Resource Economics, Colorado State University

Annually, the three counties of Central Wyoming – Fremont, Hot Springs, and Teton – import $81 million in agricultural products and services. If just a quarter of these expenditures were produced locally, this would amount to $20.5 million for the three counties.

Next, we formulated strategies for growth and diversification in the Agriculture sector in four main sectors. 

  • Food Production, Packaging and Marketing
  • Beef Production and Meat Processing
  • Equine Industry
  • Agritourism 

As part of the strategy for diversification, our report described several scale appropriate examples from around the nation.  This understanding of the current situation helped our client choose a direction for growth. These examples included a mobile meat processor, a regional food hub, and even an equine rehabilitation center. We examined successes already accomplished in the area, while highlighting new ideas nationally that would fit in the Fremont county area.  

Translating vision into reality

Months after delivering our final report, in December of 2019, Central Wyoming College was awarded a grant of over $775,000 to develop a Meat Science Program.  Specifically the grant funded a position at CWC for agriculture, meat science lab equipment, and a mobile meat sciences lab for CWC and their college consortium partners, Eastern Wyoming College and Sheridan College.

(L-R) Jack Schmidt, Scott Priebe, Mark Nordeen, Barbara Rasco, and Beth Monteiro discuss CWC mobile meat science lab which is receiving statewide attention. Source: County10.com

The creation of the Meat Science program and the Mobile Meat Processing lab is an example of how CWC took a vision from our strategy, and translated that vision into reality.  A mobile meat processing lab will help meet the workforce needs in meat processing not only in Fremont County, but across the entire state.

After meeting with stakeholders at the college and in the community, it was apparent there was already a great deal of momentum to diversify the local economy. The college utilized our sector strategy report to build the investment case for the Rocky Mountain Complex for Ag and Equine Sciences.  The complex, when built, will explore new techniques in farm-to-table, food production, agribusiness, and entrepreneurship.

We…have concluded that there is much economic and employment potential in meat and food processing in this region.  CWC’s Rocky Mountain Complex envisions supporting superior ag and equine programs to lead this movement.”

Dr. Brad Tyndall, President, Central Wyoming College

The Rocky Mountain Complex is a large piece of the plan to diversify the Agricultural economy in Fremont County; however, it is not a stand alone piece.  As the economic future in Wyoming has changed, Fremont County and CWC, have positioned themselves in a way that is proactively creating a healthy local economy.  Key partnerships between private businesses and public entities are critical for economic success in Wyoming, and CWC serves as a great example of how to make these partnerships work.  

When we started the project in early 2019, even the best fortune teller could not predict the economic uncertainties of 2020.  However, through those economic uncertainties, CWC has weathered the storm, and will continue to meet the needs of their local economy.  Strategies from our report have been implemented, and although the economic future in Wyoming is somewhat bleak at the moment, CWC is positioned to sustain this downturn, and continue their mission as a regional economic driver.  

At Orbis, we don’t try to predict the future, we work to develop strategies grounded in reality, that will work in good economies, and in economic downturns.  Every client and every project is different. We work to leverage our skills and our client’s vision, to turn ideas into reality. 

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Colby Ochsner
Colby is a lifelong learner and strategic thinker. He grew up on a family farm/ranch outside of Lingle, Wyoming. He received his education in Business Administration and Entrepreneurship at the University of Wyoming, and an MBA in Sustainable Business Systems from Pinchot University in Seattle, Washington. His graduate studies focused on entrepreneurship and agriculture, and he was able to gain an additional certificate in Sustainable Agricultural Systems. He currently lives his passion daily, caring for the cattle herd, or in the cab of a tractor. In his part-time he is a marketing, agriculture, and entrepreneurship consultant.