Local half percent sales tax for economic development delivers ‘really good bang for your buck,’ UW study shows

    Fremont County’s half percent sales tax for economic development has had a “significant” impact on the local economy according to a recent study from the University of Wyoming’s Center for Business and Economic Analysis.

    Anne Alexander – Assistant Dean at the UW College of Business and Director of Outreach and Engagement at the CBEA – presented the study results during the Lander Chamber of Commerce’s annual Community Awards Luncheon this month.

    “What the study concludes is that you have seen an increase in economic activity because that tax was approved,” she said. “(You) provided a revenue stream for transportation and economic development projects that would benefit Fremont County.”


    Between April 2021 and September 2023, the tax has generated a total of $8.97 million, according to the study, including $3.24 million for transportation, $2.86 million for Fremont County, $1.77 million for Riverton, $987,000 for Lander, $81,000 for Shoshoni, $30,000 for Dubois and $3,500 for Hudson.

    h/t UW CBEA

    Once all of that money is awarded, the study says the sales tax will have contributed $65.89 million in economic output, which Alexander described as “basically the total economic impact of the expenditures from that revenue stream.”

    In addition, the study says the funding will have contributed $59.94 million in “value added,” which Alexander said is the “difference between the output number and cost.”

    The tax will also have returned $2.27 million in tax revenues to state and local governments, the study says – including more than $500,000 collected within Fremont County – and it will have supported 579 local jobs and $16.71 million in labor income.

    h/t UW CBEA

    In other words, every dollar awarded through the economic development tax generates $7.34 in output, $6.68 in value added, $1.86 in wages, and 25 cents in state and local tax revenue, the study says, and every $15,500 spent on economic development projects funded by sales tax receipts between April 2021 and September 2023 will have created one job.

    “You are seemingly getting a really good bang for your buck,” Alexander said. “It was very impactful – and going forward we expect (it) to continue to be as impactful over the entire life … of the sales tax.”

    If local residents vote to renew the sales tax this fall, the study says it will generate $120.55 million in output over the next four years, supporting 1,059 jobs, $30.5 million in labor income, and more than $4 million in state and local tax revenues – including about $1 million within Fremont County.

    h/t UW CBEA

    Audience questions

    Alexander fielded several questions from the audience after her presentation, including one from Central Wyoming College president Brad Tyndall, who asked whether other counties’ economic development taxes have been as successful as Fremont County’s.

    The CBEA hasn’t conducted that analysis yet, Alexander said, nor did they calculate the impacts the half percent sales tax revenues would have had if they had not been collected and had instead stayed in the hands of local residents – a metric State Farm agent Justus Jacobs asked about.

    Alexander also said she didn’t know whether any analysis had been conducted showing the most effective ways to distribute economic development funding, and she couldn’t say what the half percent tax costs the average consumer in Fremont County, though she said she could get that information from the report authors, who would also know which economic development projects added the most value to the local economy.


    When CWC Bootstrap Collaborative director Mike Hoyt asked whether the study could help measure the impacts the proposed changes to the local economic development tax distribution method might have, Alexander said “you would still see similar economic impacts, but the industry interlinkages that are simulated in the model would come out with slightly different results.”

    For example, she said, “in a state like Wyoming, transportation infrastructure is incredibly important and absolutely essential for market access, (so) if you increase that weight, the economic impact might go up.”

    The proposed modification to the economic development funding distribution method says that, of the 30 percent of sales tax revenues earmarked for transportation infrastructure, 20 percent will be distributed monthly to the City of Riverton for commercial air service, and 10 percent will be distributed monthly to the Fremont County Association of Governments to be spent on ground transportation.

    Of the 70 percent of revenues allocated to the county and six municipalities based on population, the proposed modification says 33 percent of each community’s share will go to commercial air service, 10 percent will go to ground transportation, 28 percent will go to ambulance services, and 29 percent will go to local projects and programs.

    Lander Chamber of Commerce CEO Owen Sweeney said a 2023 survey showed a majority of Chamber members supported the renewal of the tax, but many “expressed concern regarding how the economic development grant applications were graded and how and to whom the money was awarded.”

    “The gist of the many comments we received was, ‘I support renewal, IF they tighten up the process,” Sweeney said, asking Chamber members to fill out a survey offering their thoughts about the proposed changes to the economic development funding distribution method.


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