A conversation with EPIC prize winner WY Ranch:
OTT: Congratulations on receiving $50,000 as part of OTT’s EPIC prize! First, please tell us a little more about your company/who you are.
WY Ranch: We’re the WY Ranch in Sheridan, WY. We work with agencies and entities across the state on industry diversification and Federal funding opportunities. We’re an independent group working on a vision for Wyoming’s future energy economy.
OTT: Will you give us a brief description of your winning program plan?
WY: Our winning plan and what we’re focused on now has changed some, but we believe for the better. Our submission envisioned us as a statewide incubator, in a formal setting, for energy technologies across the state. We’ve really focused on the future energy economy in Wyoming as a whole. We’re working with startups and well-established companies on diversification options, funding opportunities, and new business lines.
OTT: How has this program impacted your region/local community?
WY: It’s definitely opened the eyes of community leaders around the state. We’ve been able to provide advice and work for emerging and established companies with no fees charged. For the last five months, we’ve put out job bulletins every Monday for statewide employers. People see WY Ranch filling gaps across the state that our agencies can’t always provide. With the American Jobs Plan pending, we have received and answered countless requests in the last few months. The Plan is a compelling reason to further explore diversifying the Wyoming economy.
OTT: When it comes to lessons learned with building out your regional innovation ecosystem, what is one thing that has worked and one thing that has not?
WY: When we say the US Department of Energy funded WY Ranch to build an Innovation Cluster in the state, people listen as that provides credibility. They feel more free to talk about their business and know we aren’t trying to sell them anything. There isn’t one thing that absolutely has not worked, but we must be very careful with our messaging. We use the term future energy economy as it is inclusive to all forms of energy used in our future.
OTT: What does it mean to be an accelerator/incubator during the coronavirus pandemic? What is one lesson learned from this virtual experience?
WY: A stable internet connection is an absolute necessity. We are a very rural state and if we are traveling, we know we may not have internet connection for hours at a time. As our population is very dispersed, we’ve become used to the virtual experience versus in-person. We’ve only traveled twice since receiving the award for site visits. It’s very nice not to be on the road for hours at a time.
OTT: Do you think what you have developed can be scaled to other regions, if so how?
WY: We can highlight the future energy economy through actual community-based projects. Recently, WY Ranch President Logan Jenkins launched a separate non-profit, Circular, which promotes creativity in Wyoming through community-based projects. Circular projects showcase sustainability through the visual arts and promote community development and vibrancy. Each project focuses on energy startup business creation and female entrepreneurship. You can see teasers of the planned (and already funded) projects at circularwyo.org.
OTT: How can we stay up to date on the latest news or events with your company?
Thank you WY Ranch for speaking with us!
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