(Lander) — Nearly every weekend throughout the year, Mike and Diane Enzi leave Washington, D.C. and head back home to Wyoming. But this week, the U.S. Senate is in recess and Wyoming’s Senior Senator is spending a full week back home in what he has called a “Wyoming Work Week.”The Senator has been traveling the length and breadth of the Cowboy State, visiting with constituents, talking to service clubs, hosting or attending a conference or two, handing out awards, but most of all, stopping in on small businesses.
A former small businessman himself, Enzi’s background is as an accountant, a former shoe store owner, former mayor of Gillette, former Wyoming legislator and current small business champion on Capitol Hill.
“I’ve been visiting some of the best well kept secrets in the state this week, some truly outstanding small businesses, but it’s not a good idea if businesses are well kept secrets,” he told a Wednesday morning meeting of LEADER Corporation in Lander. The Senator said there are many bright people in Wyoming with good ideas, and he said he is doing all he can to help them be successful and get their products to market. Through an Inventor’s Conference he sponsors annually to a Federal Government Procurement Conference he brings to the state, Enzi said it is his goal to help protect small business as well as to promote and develop it.
“These small business events are not only on how to get a business going, but also how to protect your investment, how to network with other businessmen and women and how to market their products or services,” Enzi said. “It’s about putting people together.”
“Lander is one of the choice places in the state to live, and we have bright kids all over the world who have left home who want to come home, and I talk to them when I travel, but they need to make a living here,” Enzi said. “So we started the procurement conference which helps people learn how to do business with the Federal Government.” He said that single conference helps generate an average of $6-million in contracts each year for Wyoming people and businesses and helps to put them on the map for future successes.
When he finds a good business, he’s not shy about promoting it, and he’s been talking up a firm in Casper that developed a portable machine that cleans up uranium mill tailing sites separating out uranium lost in earlier processes and leaving only sand behind. He talked about another company that uses pine bark beetle damaged wood to remove oil from water, among other examples. “And I’ve promoted cooperatives, too. Did you know that the corridor between Boston and New York is the region of the country that consumes the most lamb each year? Well, the Wyoming Woolgrowers discovered that and bought up the only lamb processing plant in the northeast. That’s Wyoming lamb they’re eating there now,” he said.
After the breakfast meeting and several interviews and constituent meetings, Enzi visited The Tannery and the Eagle Bronze Foundry in the South Lander Industrial Park. At a noon luncheon with Lander Rotarians, he talked about those two businesses after the formal program. “People are doing their own hide tanning now, and The Tannery is doing a big business selling “how to” kits,” Enzi remarked. “And 80 percent of all the fly fishing flies around the world use animal hair that comes from the hides processed here. At Eagle Bronze they were preparing a huge Tiger bronze for the University of Memphis that was sculpted by a local artist.” The senator said he was “amazed” at the skill of the artisans there who piece the bronze monuments together after they are cast. “I always wondered how they did that,” he said.
Noting that he travels the state alot, Enzi told the Rotarians that there are 257 named spots on the Wyoming highway map, and 97 of them “have no population. And we have 14 towns where the population exceeds the elevation!”
“I like to get into businesses and see how they work and how Federal regulations impact them and if I can help them work through any problems they may have,” he said. He also gave the Rotarians a peek into how he works as a senator.
“At any one time, our Wyoming Congressional Delegation is working on 50 bills for Wyoming, so I act like your lobbyist in Washington. Most legislating is done one-on-one, and I’m a good vote counter so when I go to the floor, I’m the only one with a briefcase,” he said. He then went on to say that the briefcase contains information on each of the bills to remind him of what’s important to each of his fellow senators. “It’s like being a good retailer, I know the customer, I know what they want, and I know how it matches up with the inventory. So I have a short “elevator speech” prepared for each bill because I only get 30 to 90 seconds to lobby for my bills.”
Enzi also talked about his 80 percent rule. “That’s how bills are passed,” he said. “With most people you can agree on 80 percent of what’s in a piece of legislation, so I say to them, let’s go with the 80 percent and find a way for both sides to save face on the 20 percent they can’t agree on, and pass the bill. And it works. I’ve gotten eight bills I sponsored signed by the President in this past year.”
The Senator also talked about the current financial state of the country, tax reform, the deficit and energy development, plus the big topic of the day, health care reform. On that topic, Enzi said there won’t be any action until the Supreme Court issues it’s ruling on a challenge to the legislation. “Then we start over or trying to fix what people don’t like. We’ll have to wait and see.”
The Senator and his entourage capped off the day with a tour and light dinner at Precision Analysis in Riverton. Company President Heidi Fabrizius said she and her husband Cory “were a couple of kids just out of school” who started the business in their home garage eight years ago, and now have expanded to locations in Pinedale and Riverton with a fleet of 15 mobile natural gas or emissions testing vehicles and staffing of about 30 employees. “During our first five years, everything we made we reinvested back into the company with equipment and market research, and we were able to move into this large building three years ago. She said the firm now does business not only in Wyoming, but also in Colorado, Oklahoma, Montana, North Dakota and Utah. Also on hand for the tour were representatives of the firm’s largest customers, Encana Oil and Gas, Devon Energy, and Marathon Oil.
At the conclusion of the tour, the group enjoyed heavy hors d’oeuvres that included stuffed Shoshoni-grown mushrooms. And then it was out the door for an evening drive to Casper and another day in Enzi’s Wyoming Work Week.