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Nov 30, 2009

Cody approves $3 million grant application

RUFFIN PREVOST Gazette Wyoming Bureau

Monday, November 30, 2009

 

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CODY, Wyo. — The Cody City Council voted unanimously on Monday to approve a $3 million state grant application to cover land acquisition and building construction costs for Eleutian Technology, an online language instruction company.

 

Some key details of the deal were not available to the council or the public before the vote, including final terms of separate agreements governing the land sale and the lease and possible purchase of the building by Eleutian.

 

But a Dec. 1 Wyoming Business Council grant application deadline required Monday’s council approval, or Forward Cody would have had to wait several weeks until the next application window.

 

Managers of Ten Sleep-based Eleutian have said that their aggressive growth plans require that they choose a new location now for their corporate headquarters so that the property is ready in time to meet expansion goals for 2010-11.

 

Terms of the application state that Eleutian will employ 20 people in Cody upon completion of a new 10,000-square-foot, $1.75 million building located on a 4-acre site between Cougar Avenue and Big Horn Avenue, near Date Street.

 

The agreement states that approximately 20 more employees are “to be added incrementally over three years,” with all 40 total employees earning an average annual wage of about $50,000.

The city of Cody is not financially obligated under the agreement, said James Klessens, president of Forward Cody.

He said the nonprofit economic development group would own the land and building and would enter a 10-year lease with Eleutian at a fixed rate of about $5,800 per month.

 

Any excess revenues from lease payments by Eleutian would be used by Forward Cody to establish a revolving loan fund, for special community projects, to conduct studies and to cover property management expenses, according to the application.

 

Forward Cody will contribute matching funds of about $325,000, which is the approximate cost of the land and about half of the infrastructure development, according to a draft application.

 

Landowner Groathouse Construction may offer Forward Cody financing terms for the land sale, or the group may seek bank financing, Klessens said.

 

It was the third consecutive Wyoming Business Council grant application by Forward Cody submitted to the City Council with incomplete information. Klessens has explained that looming deadlines for grant applications have been the reason in each case.

 

The first application — for $1 million to develop a training facility for auto technicians — was later withdrawn by the applicant, City Council member Charles Cloud. He cited concerns over several factors, including the terms of a property management agreement and complaints from competitors who were opposed to the request.

 

The second application, for $730,223 for Forward Cody to buy a vacant industrial building, will be considered by the WBC on Thursday. The 12,000-square-foot former Display Structures building on 26th Street would be used as a business incubator and to lure new businesses.

 

Council member Sam Krone asked whether withdrawing the 26th Street building grant request would improve chances of having the Eleutian grant approved.

 

“Absolutely not. Never a bad idea to have your hand in the pot, so to speak,” Klessens said, adding that the two grants were from separate WBC programs, each with its own pool of available funds.

 

Monday’s Eleutian headquarters grant application will be considered in March by the business council, with a final decision expected in April from the State Loan and Investment Board. If approved, construction could start as soon as June, Klessens said.