CHEYENNE – Cheyenne political leaders, entrepreneurs and educators are teaming up to invest in Wyoming’s future, which they believe will be led by the tech industry.
That would shift the traditional framework of the state’s economy, which has been supported in large part by the energy sector for decades. But as opportunities in the mineral extraction and energy industries decline, leaders are looking elsewhere to develop a stronger and more stable Wyoming.
“If we’re going to thrive,” said Cheyenne Mayor Patrick Collins, “we’re going to have to do it on our own.”
He said he sees this happening through the utilization of a growing market in data and information technology focused jobs. Although it has been a developing market over the past 20 years, there are already many opportunities for Laramie County residents.
Companies such as Lunavi, previously named Green House Data, are based in Cheyenne and consistently looking to hire within the community. The company began as a data center and has recently developed a digital consulting program that helps businesses in Cheyenne and across the United States.
Sam Galeotos, chairman and CEO of Lunavi, said he wants to use the increasing demand for and expansion of the company’s services to invest in a statewide workforce. But in the past year, as he has looked for analysts and IT specialists, he said he has seen a shortage of qualified professionals.
Instead of searching outside of the state, he and other tech companies are partnering with Laramie County Community College and the University of Wyoming to create a direct line to their positions. Galeotos said he had to leave the state after college to look for a job in technology, and he doesn’t want students to have to continue to make that decision.
Instead, leaders at Lunavi and area education institutions want to provide students with the opportunity to have high-paying, guaranteed careers in Wyoming. No longer exporting young professionals out of the state would benefit the local economy in many ways, Galeotos said.
“It’s going to take the community as a whole,” he said. “It’ll take the business community, the technology community and the education community to really make this happen for Wyoming.”
Troy Amick, director of LCCC’s information technology program, has been one of the instrumental figures in creating this pathway. He joined the community college three years ago, and transformed the program from an administrative assistant and Microsoft Office applications focus to classes based around real world IT application.
His innovation has won him awards not only from the school, but from Microsoft, as well. This is because he has created a program engaging and accessible enough for all students.
With certifications now available in data analytics, cybersecurity, system administration and many others, there has been no lack of opportunities in the tech industry after graduation. Some of those same certified students have even gone on to work for Lunavi and other tech companies in Cheyenne.
Amick said this is no surprise to him, because the demand for employees in the IT field is the highest he has ever seen in his career.
“They’re hiring people straight out of the program,” he said.
The availability of those jobs is not the only draw in, though. The starting pay for even the most basic of certifications is often $60,000. And within five to 10 years, many students with an associate’s degree will make six-figure salaries.
Amick said he saw a student who was working three part-time jobs completely change her life after the two-year degree. She graduated and was hired immediately, bringing in a higher income than all three of her previous jobs combined. He believes programs like these can give anyone a successful and stable life.
Leaders in Wyoming say this is the kind of future they want for local residents.
“Providing good jobs is going to make it easier for people to make Cheyenne their home,” Collins said.