Three Wyoming businesses, Colo. nonprofit win BBB Torch Award for Ethics

Three businesses and one nonprofit from Wyoming and northern Colorado have been named recipients of the 2021 BBB Torch Awards for Ethics by the Better Business Bureau Foundation serving northern Colorado and Wyoming.

This year’s Torch Award winners in the business category were:

  • Blue Federal Credit Union, headquarters in Cheyenne, with branch locations along the Front Range.
  • Coffey Engineering and Surveying, headquarters in Laramie, with an office location in Loveland, Colorado.
  • Spine and Injury Clinic of Laramie, headquarters in Laramie.

Torch Award winner from the nonprofit category was:

  • Animal Friends Alliance, with two locations in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Winners of the BBB Torch Awards for Ethics are evaluated and judged by an independent panel composed of board members and past Torch Award winners who review entries based on BBB's six TRUST! Principles.

In addition, nonprofit nominees must have met BBB’s 20 Standards for Charity Accountability. This year’s nonprofit award was sponsored by the Community Foundation of Northern Colorado.

A virtual celebration was held Thursday, April 22, and featured a panel discussion of local business and community leaders, recognition of the second class of BBB Ethics Scholar Interns and the announcement of this year’s Torch Award for Ethics winners. 

Nominations for the 2022 BBB Torch Awards for Ethics are now open. To nominate a business or nonprofit, visit our nomination page. The deadline to nominate an organization is July 9.

Eval.com launches first-of-its-kind platform for federally compliant evals

During the past few years, the number of real estate evaluations both lenders and federal agencies have commissioned has increased. With real estate evaluations surging in popularity and applicability, local startup Eval.com plans to dominate the market as the nation’s only platform that brings qualified analysts together with local appraisal firms to provide lenders with the highest quality evaluations in the industry.

Being the first platform of its kind, Eval.com founder Deb Clark, MAI, spent more than three years perfecting the evaluation model in a low-risk, compliant, fast, easy and scalable way. Clark first saw the demand for evals through her appraisal firm, MountainWest Valuations, in 2018. By creating her own template and utilizing non-appraiser analysts with her appraisal firm's market data and expertise, Clark created a solution to expensive appraisals.

“It occurred to me that if we could take the model we validated here in Wyoming, and scale it through local appraisal firms, like mine, all across the country, then we would not only give more lenders a better product, but also bring appraisers a piece of the industry that had left them behind,” Clark said in a news release.

This fast-growing startup expects to add dozens of new analyst positions over the next year as they expand across the nation.

Between its two locations, in Casper and Rapid City, South Dakota, the startup is committed to adding dozens of jobs to meet the demand.

For more information, visit www.eval.com or email AJ@Eval.com.

Local angel investment group finishes strong with Fund I

Breakthrough 307, LLC, a Wyoming-based angel investment group, signed the final company for Fund I, just in time for Fund II to open and close at the end of April.

Breakthrough 307 rounds out its promising investment portfolio with Eval.com, a Casper-based real-estate lending solution to the expensive appraisal process.

Eval.com announced in mid-April it received seed investment capital from Breakthrough 307. This partnership and investment will support Eval.com’s commitment to adding dozens of local, primary jobs and assist their projected market growth, product development and ensure training schedules are adhered to during the startup's early stages, according to a news release. Since launching Jan. 1, Eval.com has hired 13 new analysts, each coming from diverse careers.

Breakthrough 307 closed Fund II at the end of April, and is anticipating positive momentum for companies, following Fund I.

Breakthrough 307’s portfolio of companies remains solid, even amid a pandemic. For more information, contact Goose@Breakthrough307.com.

Pine Bluffs Distilling announces new product launches and summer events

Pine Bluffs Distilling is local to their core, says a company news release – it’s how they do business. Supporting the community by using local grains, providing local jobs and operating with transparency all matter to the company.

“The grains we source to make our whiskey come from farms no more than 30 miles from the distillery,” said Chad Brown, owner of Pine Bluffs Distilling, in a news release. “That’s how whiskey was meant to be made, and that’s a tradition we want to uphold.”

Keeping it local, Pine Bluffs Distilling is celebrating the launch of five new products with a variety of summer events:

  • Friday, May 28 – Straight Oat Whiskey Launch, 4-9 p.m., with live music by local band The Galactic Lemons, a food truck and a Straight Oat Whiskey signature cocktail.
  • Sunday, June 27 – Straight Rye Whiskey + Uncut Single Barrel Straight Rye Whiskey Launch, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Music, food truck and a Straight Rye Whiskey signature cocktail. Plus the release of Chad’s 2021 Birthday Barrel Choice - Uncut Single Barrel Straight Rye Whiskey (limited bottle release), a tour of the local farmers who supply grains used for whiskeys, ending at the distillery with a tasting. Farm Tours will be at 9 a.m. and 12 p.m., starting at the distillery.
  • Saturday, July 24 – Malted Wheat Launch, 3-9 p.m. Music, food truck and a Malted Wheat signature cocktail
  • Saturday, Aug. 7 and 8 – 5 Grain Whiskey Launch. Aug. 7 hours are noon to 9 p.m. during Trail Days, with music, food truck and a 5 Grain Whiskey signature cocktail; Aug. 8 hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. during Trail Days, with a mud volleyball tournament starting at 9 a.m., a live DJ, food truck and a 5 Grain Whiskey signature cocktail.

Each event has a signature cocktail using the new product made specifically for that whiskey launch by Pine Bluffs Distilling in-house mixologist, KeeLee. Many of these upcoming new products are limited release – once they are gone, they’re gone – so folks are encouraged to stop by the distillery to check out the new products, pick up a bottle or two, and enjoy entertainment and food while visiting.

State Geological Survey publishes new Green River oil and natural gas study

Oil and gas production in the Greater Green River Basin of southwestern Wyoming has historically been from conventional, high-porosity reservoirs within well-defined traps.

However, developments in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have shifted the overall focus of exploration in Wyoming toward geographically extensive, low-porosity and permeability unconventional reservoirs.

In response to this shift, the Wyoming State Geological Survey has published a new oil and natural gas study about the Greater Green River Basin’s subsurface geology. The study establishes a baseline dataset for the stratigraphy and geometry of potential unconventional reservoirs, including the Lewis Shale, Baxter-Hilliard shales, Niobrara Formation, Mowry Shale and Phosphoria Formation.

“In 2019, 62% of the natural gas and 13% of the oil in Wyoming was produced from reservoirs in the Greater Green River Basin,” said WSGS Director and State Geologist Erin Campbell. “Publicly available data on the distribution and thickness of established and potential reservoirs is essential for guiding future exploration in this important region.”

For the study, WSGS geologists interpreted the depths to formations, or “formation tops,” in more than 2,650 geophysical well logs for formations ranging in age from the Precambrian to the Eocene.

The formation tops were used to define type logs for several subregions of the GGRB, generate contour maps of formation structure and thickness for key stratigraphic intervals, and populate WSGS’s spatial database of subsurface oil and gas geology. The study’s dataset also contains well-header information and downhole temperatures for selected wells.

The database is available on the Interactive Oil and Gas Map of Wyoming (visit https://tinyurl.com/38nh65m4/), where users can view the formation tops and contour maps alongside other GGRB wells, oil and gas fields, and infrastructure. The well data and formation tops are downloadable in tabular format directly from the interactive map. Any future corrections to the dataset will be entered into the WSGS database and automatically updated in the interactive map.

Ramaco CEO testifies on future of coal to U.S. Senate committee

In mid-April, Randall Atkins, CEO of Wyoming-based coal technology company Ramaco Carbon, testified before the full U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

His testimony centered on the growing field of coal-to-products, in which the carbon from coal is used to manufacture high-value products and materials, such as carbon fiber.

Atkins appeared at the invitation of ranking member Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming and committee chair Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Both senators praised Ramaco’s innovative focus on coal-to-products during their opening remarks.

In his testimony, Atkins stressed the need for America to embrace its carbon resources, and use them to create new economic and competitive advantages.

“The United States possesses the world’s largest and cheapest carbon reserves,” he said. “It needs to capitalize on that advantage and develop its own form of a ‘Carbon Valley’ to unlock that full potential.”

Most carbon products today are manufactured with petroleum feedstocks, Atkins noted, which are almost 40 times more expensive than the same carbon equivalent from coal.

“If we could make these carbon materials for less cost using coal, it would have a dramatic positive disruption on the cost structure of many industries, as well as improve the environmental and qualitative aspects of many products.”

Atkins, who is also chairman of the National Coal Council, is one of the world’s foremost proponents of coal-to-products research and technology. Ramaco is involved in five current Department of Energy grants focused on coal-to-products, and partnered with two of the United States’ largest national laboratories: Oak Ridge National Laboratory and National Energy Technology Laboratory. Ramaco has developed carbon research facilities in Wyoming and West Virginia.

Video of Atkins’ testimony can be found at www.ramacocarbon.com/presentations-news.

Shifting burden of retirement saving and investing to public employees is costly

The Wyoming Coalition for a Healthy Retirement and its partner, the National Public Pension Coalition, has released a report on the pitfalls states face when converting public employees to a defined-contribution retirement plan.

The report, "Fiscal Responsibility and 401(k)s: Why Converting Public Employees to Defined-Contribution Retirement Plans is Wrong for Your State," details the harmful effects of conversion.

Among them:

  • Converting public employees from a defined-benefit pension to a defined-contribution 401(k) retirement plan will cost the state more in the long term.
  • Conversion will harm the state’s effort to recruit and retain the best public employees.
  • 401(k)s have made the retirement security crisis worse.

“This report shows that the state will not save money by converting future public employees from a defined-benefit pension plan to a defined-contribution retirement plan,” said Wayne Schatz, executive director of the Wyoming Retired Education Personnel and a WCHR coalition member. “In fact, conversion will cost more and hurt recruitment and retention efforts as the state seeks to hire the best and brightest. States that have made this move in the past have suffered the consequences.”

Kevin Reddy, president of the Federated Fire Fighters of Wyoming and a WCHR coalition member, said it’s a question of service and dignity. “Wyoming's public employees, including firefighters, dedicate their lives in service to their communities while earning less than they could in the private sector. The promise of a defined-benefit pension plan so that public employees can retire with dignity is the least we can do.”

WCHR is a coalition of tens of thousands of retired public employees – including teachers, nurses, firefighters and other public servants – from across the state of Wyoming.

All aboard for light rail: Cheyenne is back on Amtrak's (proposed) map

As part of President Joe Biden's proposed infrastructure build-out, Cheyenne has been listed as a proposed future site for Amtrak service.

Biden’s American Jobs Plan allocates $80 million in funding to address Amtrak’s repair backlog, modernize the high-traffic northeast corridor, improve existing corridors and connect new city pairs; and enhance grant and loan programs that support passenger and freight rail safety, efficiency and electrification.

This is good news for Cheyenne, said Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce CEO Dale Steenbergen, who has long advocated for light-rail service as an economic development enhancement for the community.

Cheyenne, the Chamber reports, pulls from a regional market of people who travel to and through Denver for business and pleasure. If Cheyenne offers a point to embark and return, it will have the opportunity to bring potential customers into the community. These guests add to Cheyenne’s retail market and enhance sales tax collections.

Wyo. businesses generate $262 million in economic impact due to Google products

According to a recent Google Economic Impact Report, some 4,300 businesses, publishers and nonprofits in Wyoming used Google products to increase their online presence and connect with the people and communities they serve – generating $262 million in economic activity in 2020.

Google plans to invest more than $7 billion and create at least 10,000 new full-time Google jobs across the United States this year.

Since 2011, Google for Nonprofits has supported 300+ nonprofits in Wyoming. In 2020, Google provided $523,000 in in-kind search advertising credit to Wyoming nonprofits through the Google Ad Grants program.

Google is also invested in expanding access to Google Career Certificates to help more people – particularly underserved – grow their careers. To date, the Google IT Support Certificate has been implemented through 100+ community colleges and dozens of career technical education sites. More than 120 Wyomingites have enrolled in the program, and 60% of people who take the Google IT Support Certificate course are Black, Latino, women or veterans.

Java Presse, in Cheyenne, was highlighted in Google’s nationwide Economic Impact Report in a case study that details how they used digital tools to increase their online presence and reach customers. Raj Jana created JavaPresse, a startup that not only sells specialty coffees, coffee grinders and brewing equipment, but also offers a blog, called Javapedia, that gives readers a vast knowledge repository on all things coffee. The company uses Google Ads and Google Analytics to reach and understand a national audience and turn everyday coffee rituals into meaningful moments of mindfulness.

GH Phipps’ Laramie facility selected for important renovation work

GH Phipps Construction’s Wyoming office has been selected to complete important renovation work at the Laramie Municipal Operations facility.

The work will include the renovation of existing buildings named A & G, a new building for administration, and a new building for large vehicle parking, including site access modifications and selective demolition. The team also includes Plan One Architects.

Buildings A and G are existing metal building structures and will receive moderate interior renovation, including mechanical and electrical system upgrades. The Administration Building is a new metal-framed structure with metal and stone veneer, interior offices, conference rooms and vehicle parking area with exterior canopies. Site work includes, but is not limited to, new water and sewer lines, site lighting, relocated drive approaches including grading of the parking lot with landscape islands, a new fuel island and a new salt-sand building.

For more information regarding GH Phipps, visit www.gh phipps wyoming.com.

Milestones

Veteran banker Claudius Duncan is Chase Bank’s new market director of banking in Montana and Wyoming, where the bank recently announced its market expansion. A graduate of Johnson & Wales University, Duncan earned his associate's degree in Science Business Administration in 2004. He also holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Operations Management. He and his family recently relocated to Cheyenne from Buena Park, California, where he led a team of bankers serving Chase customers. He brings nearly 15 years of banking leadership to his new role, and has been with Chase since 2007.

Philip Mundt has been appointed head distiller and production manager of Brush Creek Distillery. A native of Colorado and previous production manager at Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey, Mundt brings more than a decade of industry experience to Wyoming, where he will oversee all operations at the distillery, as well as manage partnerships and collaborations with The Farm at Brush Creek.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is congratulating five employees on their years of service to the state of Wyoming. The following employees celebrated a milestone work anniversary in April:

  • Mark Gocke, public information specialist, Jackson and Pinedale regions, 30 years
  • Kevin Gelwicks, assistant fisheries management coordinator, Laramie Region, 25 years
  • Phil Damm, Baggs wildlife biologist, Green River Region, five years
  • Chance Kirkeeng, fisheries biologist, Laramie Region, five years
  • Jacob Sorensen, habitat and access coordinator, Laramie Region, five years

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