“Discover Wyoming in Winter” digital marketing campaign video wins award

Brand USA, the destination marketing organization for the United States, was awarded an Adrian Award from Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International at the 64th HSMAI Adrian Awards virtual award ceremony on March 23. The video "Discover Wyoming in Winter" from United Stories won a Gold Award in the category of Digital Single Item – Video.

"United Stories" – a Visit The USA consumer marketing campaign launched in early 2019 – highlights local and authentic travel experiences throughout the U.S. with the idea of inspiring travelers from around the world to visit these destinations.

Given that international travelers are not as familiar with Wyoming as they are other states, the goal was to position the state as a destination worth visiting at any time of the year, even winter.

Recognized for excellence in digital and integrated marketing, the video "Discover Wyoming in Winter" features influencer Catarina Mello (@professionaltraveler) a native of Brazil – known for her travels to tropical, warm-weather destinations – stepping out of her comfort zone and trying something new, a trip to Wyoming in the cold month of February. The video – available on Brand USA’s free streaming network, GoUSA TV, and the GoUSA TV YouTube channel – yielded some of the channel’s best paid media performance on YouTube, with an overall pre-roll view through rate across four international markets of 62%.

“Our mission is to promote the entirety of the United States to inspire international travelers in the most creative ways possible,” said Tom Garzilli, chief marketing officer at Brand USA. “Through our storytelling campaign United Stories, we are able to promote global visitation to the United States, focusing more on international travelers sharing their experiences about the transformative places they have visited in the USA. We are honored to be recognized by the HSMAI for our continuous efforts to support the travel industry’s recovery.”

The focus of the 2020 HSMAI Adrian Awards is on Best Practices, Innovation and Community in categories related to work done in response to the coronavirus crisis. This year, HSMAI redesigned the Adrian Awards to reflect the current travel landscape, honoring those who are contributing to the travel industry’s recovery.

Wyoming Energy Forum seeks a just and sustainable energy transition

People concerned about the coming energy transition and worried how Wyoming will handle it should touch base with the Wyoming Energy Forum, a group of state citizens dedicated to ensuring this transition is just and sustainable.

“The Wyoming Energy Forum is a place where the brightest minds can gather to exchange ideas and come up with the best long-term practices for using Wyoming’s natural resources and human capital,” WEF President Joe Quiroz said in a news release. “Our goal is to put everything on the table. We look for the choices that provide good, stable jobs now, protect the landscapes that make our state the special place it is, and ensure that the next generation inherits a Wyoming that is still wild and working.”

State residents know the biggest economic issue confronting the state lies in the rapidly changing energy “architecture” in the U.S. and the world. The natural resources Wyoming has exported in the past – coal, oil and gas, and electricity generated using these commodities – are facing declining demand.

This rapid change puts tremendous pressure on the state: jobs in these sectors are disappearing, and tax revenues are declining for both the state and its communities. Meanwhile, WEF sees an extraordinary increase in renewable energy project proposals that promise jobs, but like all industrialization, pose big problems for wildlife and its habitat and the open landscape of the state.

The good news is that this transition creates a tremendous opportunity. Wyoming is flush with carbon-free energy resources. If the state handles things properly, Wyoming can play a leading role in the move to carbon-free energy in the Western states.

The Wyoming Energy Forum uses a website to connect these ideas with people. Visit wyoenergyforum.org or contact Joe Quiroz at 307-349-6052 or WEF307jq@gmail.com or Dan Neal at 307-258-2783 or dnealWEF@gmail.com for more information.

Higher grain prices, more planted acres, strong demand for inputs boost ag retailers

Farm supply cooperatives and distributors are positioned to benefit from an active and profitable spring agronomy season, driven by high commodity prices, strong input demand, and an expected increase in planted acres of soybean, corn and wheat.

After two strong agronomy seasons in 2020, ag retailers and wholesalers begin the 2021 planting season with favorable industry fundamentals and an opportunity to expand profit margins, according to a new report from CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange.

Since last August, prices have increased more than 60% for corn and soybeans and nearly 20% for wheat, in response to tight ending stocks and continued strong demand from both export markets and domestic processors. The cyclical turn in grain prices, combined with robust government support payments, drove a surprise recovery in farmer income, leaving growers in a sound financial position heading into spring.

While some producers may have missed out on the early gains in pricing by selling their corn and soybean crops in late September, U.S. net farm income aggregated for crop, dairy and livestock production grew by $38 billion in 2020. Those gains were driven in large part by historic government farm program payments of $46 billion.

Farm debt and financial leverage ratios continue to increase, however, partly offsetting the positive financial picture for growers. Farmer debt-to-equity is projected to reach 16.1% in 2021, compared to 15.8% in 2020 and 12.7% in 2012, a situation that could become problematic should floating rate interest debt begin rising in anticipation of future inflation.

High grain prices, coupled with favorable supply-demand dynamics, will drive higher planted acreage, resulting in more crop input usage during the spring 2021 planting season. In aggregate, USDA expects slightly more than 10 million additional planted acres this year, due primarily to prevent plant acres coming back into circulation.

Given the higher acreage forecasts, farmers are expected to buy more fertilization products, specifically the principal macronutrients (nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous) during the spring planting season. Rising fertilizer prices are also a positive indicator for new sales and retailer margins.

Inventory levels of seed, fertilizer and crop protection products are largely expected to be sufficient for the projected increase in spring planted acres. However, logistical bottlenecks (mainly trucking and rail) remain as risk factors that could potentially create input shortages or delays in certain parts of the country.

Farmer prepayments to farm supply cooperatives increased during the final months of 2020, as growers bought crop inputs in advance to minimize tax liabilities.

For a closer look, go online to https://tinyurl.com/k7kns3x7.

Ammunition manufacturer Discreet Ballistics to relocate to Sundance

An ammunition manufacturer that was originally founded in New Hampshire will soon be relocating to Wyoming.

Discreet Ballistics exclusively produces subsonic ammunition and aims to continue delivering its products nationwide from its new home in Sundance.

“Discreet Ballistics was established in a barn in the foothills of the New Hampshire White Mountains in 2016,” owner David Stark said in a news release. Of the decision to make a change, he explained, “We have grown to a point where our location was making continued growth difficult.”

Stark believes that Wyoming will be a more friendly location for his business in the long term.

“On a more macro level, we forecast the state of New Hampshire to be on the cusp of enacting more stringent gun laws. After much research, we found that Sundance appeared to be a very firearms friendly area and has a qualified workforce,” he said.

“Additionally, Sundance is located much closer to our components vendors, which are primarily located in the midwest and western U.S.”

Access to the life of an outdoorsman is, of course, no small advantage of the move.

“My wife, son and I are an outdoorsy family, and the Wyoming Black Hills appear to offer limitless potential for our lifestyle,” Stark said.

Discreet Ballistics expected to arrive in Sundance in mid-March and will occupy a space in the commercial district, Stark said.

For more information, go online to https://discreetballistics.com/.

U.S. Forest Service distributes $193 million in Secure Rural Schools payments

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service chief, Vicki Christiansen, recently announced the issuance of more than $193 million to support public schools, roads and other municipal services through the agency’s Secure Rural Schools program. The funding will be delivered as payments to more than 700 eligible counties in 41 states and Puerto Rico.

“The Secure Rural Schools program is one of many ways the Forest Service supports rural communities as a good neighbor," Christiansen said in a news release. "This support is part of USDA's ongoing commitment to work hand in hand with community leaders and to provide vital economic relief to local communities."

In addition to payments for schools and roads, the Secure Rural Schools program supports Firewise Communities programs, reimburses counties for emergency services on national forests and funds development of community wildfire protection plans.

The Forest Service retains a portion of Secure Rural Schools program funds to support projects that improve forest conditions and support jobs in rural communities. Resource advisory committees, made up of local residents representing varied areas of interest and expertise, review and recommend projects that meet their local needs.

Laramie Plains looks to the future with a new name: StagePoint Federal Credit Union

Laramie Plains Federal Credit Union, the city’s oldest credit union, standing strong since 1935, has announced the launch of its new brand, StagePoint Federal Credit Union, according to a news release.

Owned by its members, the name StagePoint recognizes that the credit union’s focus is to provide trusted counsel to help members navigate through the financial decisions they face at every stage of life.

The new name will be implemented across the credit union’s products and services throughout 2021. The website, www.StagePointFCU.com, is live now.

StagePoint's branch office at 3905 Grand Ave. is in the final stage of construction and will soon open to serve members. The 365 N. Third St. branch will begin an extensive remodel, with a projected completion date this July.

StagePoint's new branding embodies a local, strong credit union fully committed to the communities it serves and its thousands of members, according to a news release. The new identity builds upon its history of being a leader in technology and service, while forging a vision for the future.

Wyoming Community Foundation distributes $766,265 across the state

Continuing its mission of building a better Wyoming, the Wyoming Community Foundation has distributed $766,265 to organizations and projects across the state for its winter grant-making cycle.

The Wyoming Community Foundation works to connect people who care with causes that matter. In this recent cycle, the Foundation granted awards to nearly 100 organizations. Projects ranged from a STEM Summer Program for K-6 students to a program to help single mothers in Gillette during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It is always gratifying to see the work that Wyoming nonprofits are doing to build stronger communities," Director of Programs and Communications Micah Richardson said in a news release. "We are honored to play a role in supporting their efforts."

The funds that support these projects rely on support from donors from across the state. Funds are held by the Foundation and invested, ensuring ongoing returns to support charitable causes in the long term.

To donate or set up a fund, or to receive more information on the Wyoming Community Foundation and the organizations it supports, visit www.wycf.org.

The Wyoming Community Foundation’s next grant application deadline is June 15. Nonprofits making a difference in their communities are encouraged to apply.

Hub International acquires assets of Wyoming Financial Insurance

Hub International Limited, a leading full-service global insurance broker, recently announced that it has acquired the assets of Wyoming Financial Insurance, the largest independently owned insurance agency in Wyoming.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

With nearly a dozen offices throughout Wyoming, WYFI provides commercial insurance, personal lines and high net worth/mass affluent insurance solutions, employee benefits and surety bonds. WYFI specializes in various industries, including construction, health care, hospitality and transportation, which supports Hub’s Specialty practices by complementing and strengthening its existing capabilities.

“We are bringing together two elite firms in the state of Wyoming to provide the highest level of expertise and local market support to all clients,” said Rene LeVeaux, president of Hub Mountain, in a news release. “We are committed to our continued growth in the region to benefit our combined clients.”

Art Hansen, president of Wyoming Financial; Mike Kretzer, CFO; and Bob Moberly, CEO, will not be joining HUB to spend more time on other ventures. The rest of the Wyoming Financial team will join Hub Mountain.

“We recognized a strong strategic alignment with Hub regarding vision, entrepreneurial culture and expertise,” said Hansen. “This partnership will help realize the value of the WYFI team's life work, continue our upward trajectory and leverage the experience, depth and breadth of resources from both firms to deliver exceptional service to clients in Wyoming.”

Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies changing name to Food Bank of Wyoming

The Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies will be changing its name to Food Bank of Wyoming.

The organization will maintain its existing relationship with Food Bank of the Rockies while continuing to serve all of Wyoming.

“We believe that our new name – Food Bank of Wyoming – is a better reflection of our community-based organization,” said Tony Woodell, Food Bank of Wyoming’s director, in a news release.

Food Bank of Wyoming distributes more than 1 million pounds of nutritious food monthly across the state.

Woodell said the past 12 months have stretched the Food Bank’s resources beyond anything ever imagined. One in six adults, and one in four children are facing hunger, he noted; staff, volunteers, and donors have stepped up to help address this growing food crisis from all four corners of the state.

Since March of 2020, Food Bank of Wyoming has distributed more than 13.7 million pounds of food for the first time in its history. This is enough food to help provide over 11.4 million meals. That is over a 29% increase in food distributed when compared to the same period in the previous year.

Milestones

Brian Heithoff, who served as High West Energy’s CEO and general manager for nearly 10 years, will step down from his High West position to become CEO position at Trico Electric Cooperative near Tucson, Arizona. “This was a great co-op when I arrived, and it will be a great co-op for the next leader,” Heithoff said in a news release. He also expressed optimism about the future of High West Energy and its subsidiary companies, High West Wiring and High West Digital Solutions. Those subsidiaries – which provide electrician services and IT services, respectively – were created during Heithoff’s tenure.

Cody physician Dr. Mark Ryzewicz has recently joined the Board of Directors of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wyoming. Ryzewicz is a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon and is affiliated with the Northern Wyoming Surgical Center and Cody Regional Health. A graduate of Stanford University, Ryzewicz received his medical degree from Vanderbilt School of Medicine and completed his residency in orthopaedic surgery at University of Colorado Health in Denver. He has practiced in Laramie, Sheridan, Worland and Rapid City, South Dakota, and has been in Cody since 2016.

Kierra Bulkley is the newest addition to Timberline Hospitalities, a Wyoming owned and operated hotel company, team of general managers. Bulkley will lead and manage the Candlewood Suites in Gillette. Bulkley initially joined one of Timberline’s portfolio hotels, the Holiday Inn in Laramie, while working on her Business Administration degree at the University of Wyoming in 2015. She embraced several roles there, including front desk associate, laundry attendant, bartender and sales administrator and coordinator. In 2019, she was promoted to Regional Director of Sales and has been a major contributor to Timberline Hospitalities’s top line revenues at Gillette’s Candlewood Suites and Holiday Inn Express & Suites, also the Hampton Inn & Suites in Buffalo, ever since.

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

  • Craig Amadio – Regional fisheries supervisor, Lander Region – 20 years
  • Stan Harter – South Lander wildlife biologist, Lander Region – 20 years
  • Mark Smith – Assistant fisheries management coordinator, Cheyenne Headquarters – 20 years
  • Kindra Brown – Office manager, Casper Region – 15 years
  • Barbara Duke – Senior accountant, Cheyenne Headquarters – 15 years
  • Levi Wood – Gillette game warden, Sheridan Region – 10 years
  • Sam Stephens – Greybull wildlife biologist, Cody Region – 5 years
  • Cindy Weekly – Accountant, Cheyenne Headquarters – 5 years

The Petroleum Association of Wyoming welcomes Colin McKee as Regulatory Affairs Director. McKee will manage the association's portfolio of state and federal agency regulatory actions impacting the natural gas and oil industry in his new role. Before joining PAW, McKee served as the administrator of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality Industrial Siting Division and as a policy adviser to former Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead. McKee managed Mead's energy policy portfolio, covering utilities, natural gas and oil, mineral taxation and mining. He served as the state of Wyoming's representative on the U.S. Department of Interior Royalty Policy Committee. He holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Drury University.

The former President of the National Outdoor Leadership School and local Lander leader John Gans has recently been named to the Board of Directors for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wyoming. Born in the upper Midwest, Gans came to Wyoming early in his career and joined the NOLS faculty in 1980. He then held progressively broader roles with the program before becoming president in 1995. He oversaw the development of new programs and initiatives, while working to integrate the local cultures and staff in many foreign countries. He helped NOLS acquire the Wilderness Medicine Institute, which educates more than 23,000 students in wilderness medicine, and was instrumental in developing the Custom Education Division which tailors learning to professional groups, including NASA astronauts, federal land managers and corporate leaders. Gans retired from NOLS in 2020 and lives with his wife in Lander.

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