The Riverton City Council directed staff to prepare more than $121,000 in economic development funding contracts last week, deviating in part from the recommendations of the citizen committee that reviewed the projects.
Six entities applied for funding this round, including:
-Arcadia Minerals, which requested about $35,500 for a dual tandem trailer and an off-road vehicle to “safely show potential investors the company’s mineral properties”
-HoneyFly Company, which requested almost $190,000 to help pay for a building and community garden
-Miller Bulk Goods, which requested $24,000 to help open a small retail bulk food store
-The Riverton Medical District, which requested almost $40,000 for project management and marketing
-Spenser Yowell, who requested $45,000 to help expand a photography business
-The Spotted Buffalo, which requested $65,000 to help build an addition to their dog boarding, training and grooming facility
Riverton’s EDGE Committee recommended full funding for Arcadia Minerals and The Spotted Buffalo; $72,600 for HoneyFly; $19,215 for Miller Bulk Goods; and no funding for the Riverton Medical District and Spenser Yowell – but last week the council approved full funding for The Spotted Buffalo and the Riverton Medical District; $19,215 for Miller Bulk Goods; and no funding for Arcadia Minerals, HoneyFly or Spenser Yowell.
Arcadia Minerals owns two mineral deposits in Wyoming that contain minerals like zircon, titanium and rare earths, according to their funding application.
Company president Hal Herron said the deposits have been drilled and assayed, and now he’s in the process of raising $2 million from investors for metallurgical testing, so he needs to be able to “take people out to the field safely and reliably” to show them their potential investment.
That’s where the new four-wheeler comes in.
In the past, Herron said, he has “borrowed four-wheelers” for those field trips and “had them break down.”
“I’ve got horror stories,” he told the council. “That’s why I’m coming to you. … I need to be able to take these people safely to and from (these sites).”
He added that, when he isn’t using the off-road machine, he will make it available for use by local search and rescue crews.
EDGE Committee member Cody Beers said the Arcadia Minerals project has “U.S. Energy-type possibilities for the Riverton economy.”
“It’s one of those things where you step to the plate and take a big swing,” he said. “If you hit the ball, it’s a home run (for) our community.”
Councilmember Mike Bailey agreed that “minerals are an important part of our economy here in Fremont County and Wyoming,” but he also expressed concern about funding “100 percent of anybody’s project.”
Later, Bailey made a motion to offer Arcadia Minerals $30,000 instead of $35,500, but that amendment was defeated.
The council then voted against the EDGE Committee recommendation for Arcadia, meaning the company won’t receive any economic development funding this round.
Councilmember Lindsey Cox is a co-founder of the HoneyFly Company, which plans to offer guided fishing trips, sell fishing equipment, and make and sell honey mead and honey-based products using a local supplier.
The business also hopes to develop an “outdoor gathering area” for the community that “people could come and enjoy,” Beers said.
The council voted not to fund the project.
Cox abstained from the vote.
Miller Bulk Goods
Community development director Michael Miller is the co-owner of Miller Bulk Goods, a new business that proposes to offer “specialized ingredients” in bulk to local customers, Beers said.
The council voted to approve the EDGE Committee recommendation to fund 80 percent of Miller’s request.
Spotted Buffalo owner Mandy Apodaca-Nation said she would use the economic development funding she requested to build more big kennels for her customers with “extra-large” or multiple dogs.
“Our extra-large kennels are the most sought after,” she told the council, explaining that “most of our residents have two or three dogs, (and) when they leave, they don’t want their dogs separated – they want them housed together.”
The addition to her building would allow her to hire four or five more employees, she noted, including a business manager, a full-time groomer, and more kennel technicians.
“We’re already booming,” Apodaca-Nation said. “We just want to grow and accommodate our community better.”
Bailey proposed offering The Spotted Buffalo $45,000 instead of $65,000, but that amendment was rejected; instead, the council approved the EDGE Committee’s recommendation to fully fund the business’ request.
Riverton Medical District
RMD board chair Corte McGuffey said a portion of the funding his organization requested would help cover the cost of a project manager – a position that is required as part of the group’s federal loan agreement.
The rest of the money requested was for marketing and branding efforts, he said, noting that provider recruitment “is going to be a huge part of making this hospital successful,” so it makes sense to spend “some money to develop a branding guide and mission and value statements.”
The EDGE Committee recommended no funding for the RMD project because the request “did not really meet the requirement” that half percent funding result in “retaining or increasing employment,” Beers said – but Councilmember Kristy Salisbury argued that the RMD volunteers “need to be funded and supported,” even if they need to “change” the language in their request “to make it fit the law.”
“Our hospital is still the No. 1 priority in our community,” she said. “We need to get the hospital going.”
The RMD hopes to break ground on the hospital building next spring, McGuffey said, and the construction project is expected to last 18-24 months.
“It’s going to be a huge thing for our community – for all of Fremont County,” he said. “That’s what keeps us going.”
Salisbury made the motion to fully fund the RMD request, with the stipulation that the organization needs to work with city staff to ensure that the funding agreement meets the economic development spending requirements.
The council approved the motion, though Hancock pointed out that the RMD has also received economic development funding from Fremont County, and Councilmember Kyle Larson noted that the City of Riverton has already contributed almost $900,000 in half percent sales tax money to the hospital project.
“We are very grateful for all the half-cent money,” McGuffey said. “We wouldn’t be here without (it).”
Beers said the request from Spenser Yowell offered “no real assurance that we’re going to gain additional jobs in the community from this proposal.”
“He does great work with photography,” Beers said. “But it didn’t really meet the criteria.”
The council did not take any action on Yowell’s project.
In total, city finance director Mia Harris said the council appropriated $121,173 in economic development funding last week, leaving $71,181 in the half percent sales tax fund for future use.
For more information call the City of Riverton at 856-2227.