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Nov 16, 2009

Eleutian Technology Looking Beyond Ten Sleep

By TOM MAST Casper Star-Tribune


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CASPER — Casper and Cody are among towns being considered by Eleutian Technology for an operations office that will be relocated from Ten Sleep.


In recent months, Eleutian consulted with state and local officials about ways to expand the growing English language instruction firm in Ten Sleep. The company purchased 40 acres west of town toward that end.


Although the town of Ten Sleep declined to endorse a $3 million state business committed grant application for a new facility, the county stepped in. In the end, Eleutian officials decided not to pursue the grant due to a disagreement over a water well.


Shawn Reese, director of the Wyoming Business Council’s investment ready communities division, said the state wanted a showing that the site had water of sufficient quality, quantity and dependability for the new building.


He said that did not necessarily mean drilling a well, but in the absence of such data, the state could have found itself supporting a project that was ultimately impractical.


Reese said the grant could not have paid for the testing, but it could have paid for a well if its feasibility were established.


Eleutian spokesman Brian Holiday said the only way to meet the state’s requirement was to drill a well at a cost of more than $100,000, with another $50,000 to $60,000 for engineering and architectural fees.

“Essentially, it was a $150,000 hurdle just to apply,” Holiday said, and then there was no assurance the grant ultimately would have been approved. So the company’s board decided not to go forward with the application.


In addition to Casper and Cody, Holiday said the company is evaluating out-of-state sites. A facility with fiber-optic connections and a town with a larger labor pool and reliable air service are among the factors being weighed.


“Even if we don’t move the operations center to the Casper area, that area can be a huge draw for our teaching center. Our numbers show we could hire as many as 200 teacher there perhaps,” he said.

The company has more than 300 teachers and is adding them at a rate of about one per day.


Holiday said Eleutian employs about 20 people in operations and plans to add another 20 in the next year. Eventually, he expects the company’s finance and accounting people also will be relocated, which would leave fewer than 10 people in Ten Sleep, plus a teaching center.


Teachers at eight centers in the state won’t be affected, he said.


Le Ann Baker, executive director of the Washakie Development Association, expressed disappointment, but thinks county officials did what they could “to try to make their location fit this project.”


Baker said the cost of drilling a well was problematic. In discussions, they assumed a well would cost $100 per foot, or $100,000 to drill for water to 1,000 feet, but one person in the area drilled to 3,000 feet before finding water. She also questions whether the project could have been completed for $3 million.

Baker said Eleutian was offered options in Worland and Ten Sleep, but company officials have shown little interest.


“It’s one of those things, How bad do you want to make it happen?” she said. “It comes down to that.”

Eleutian Technology works from local call centers to deliver its services via online multimedia. It offers English language instruction principally in Korea, but also in Japan, China and Russia. Last month, Holiday said the company provided 35,000 lessons.