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Apr 8, 2010

Wyoming board OKs $10.5 million in business grants

Trib.com, Wyoming's largest online news source:  By MATT JOYCE | Posted: Thursday, April 8, 2010

 

The State Loan and Investment Board on Thursday approved applications for $10.5 million in state business development grants, including money that will enable Eleutian Technology to move from Ten Sleep to Cody.

The board, which is made up of Wyoming's five statewide elected officials, also approved $4.5 million for the planned National Center Atmospheric Research facility in Cheyenne and $3 million for a planned of Midwestern Pipeline Services plant in Cheyenne.

The $3 million Eleutian grant will help build a new headquarters building for the online language instruction company. The 4-year-old company decided last fall to look for a new home as it outgrew its headquarters in Ten Sleep, population 315.

Brian Holiday, Eleutian's general counsel, said the company tried to find a way to stay in Ten Sleep, but the town's limited sewer and water systems would have required significant upgrades or a completely new water well and wastewater facility for the company.

The project has a total price tag of $3.7 million and is scheduled for completion by summer 2011. Forward Cody, an economic development corporation, will purchase the property and lease it to Eleutian. Eleutian is contributing $7,500 in a cash match and $400,000 toward capital equipment and relocation expenses.

Eleutian's move will bring the company's 20 corporate employees _ and possibly up to 40 _ to Cody.

Eleutian uses Internet video conferencing to connect local English teachers with South Korean students. It also employs about 350 teachers who work from centers in Ten Sleep, Powell, Lovell, Cody, Basin, Worland, Sheridan, Dubois and Provo, Utah.

James Klessens, CEO and president of Forward Cody, who first reached out to Eleutian about moving to Cody, said the new business and its well-paid employees will provide a significant economic boost to Cody. But Klessens said he never intended to lure the company away from Ten Sleep.

"We view this project as a retention project for the state, more so than recruitment specifically to Cody," he said. "There's a lot of people and a lot of other communities around the United States that wanted to see this company _ Denver, Boston, Provo, Utah, Salt Lake."

Le Ann Baker, executive director of the Washakie Development Association, said she's disappointed that Eleutian is leaving Ten Sleep but glad it's staying in the Big Horn Basin.

"I believe that everyone who came into contact with that project in this county did everything they could, from the town council, to the commissioners, to Washakie Development," Baker said. "But the logistics _ there were just so many challenges _ we just couldn't meet them all in this community and make it work for the company."

Laramie County will benefit significantly from grants approved by the board.

The $4.5 million NCAR grant will pay for road paving, water and sewer lines, and telecommunications connectivity to support the new supercomputer facility. The center will be Wyoming's first large research and development center, according to the grant application, and will employ 20 to 40 people over the next three years.

The other Laramie County grant is $3 million to construct a road, water well, water lines and regional septic system for a new Midwestern Pipeline Services pipe-coating plant. Midwestern plans to open plant by summer 2012. The infrastructure will also serve a new industrial area.