Elizabeth Hutchings (pictured left) recently joined other young Jackson residents and Conservation Leadership Institute participants to speak up on an anti-housing bill in Cheyenne. Read her comments below, and click here to learn more and sign a petition.
When I was 19, I co-founded a 3D printing and distributed manufacturing business.
My company, Autotiv, reduced inefficiencies in supply chains and product development, helped companies learn about and leverage 3D printing for their organizations, and accelerated the growth of hundreds of the companies we worked with. Over 3 years, my partners and I grew our company from a part-time project to a multimillion dollar company serving clients like Pfiezer, NASA, and MIT. Today, Autotiv is still thriving; employing 14 people in southern New Hampshire, and supporting countless local businesses.
I left that company – I moved to Jackson and fell in love with Wyoming; the wide open range land, the myriad of rivers (and trout they hold), craggy windswept peaks, and of course, the whiskey.
But what I love most is the people. Wyoming is a place where the entrepreneurial spirit runs deep, and we’re not afraid to roll up our sleeves and get things done.
I see this in the companies I mentor at Silicon Couloir, a non-profit providing resources for entrepreneurs in the region. I work with three companies currently, and have coached six others. They range from consumer goods to a healthcare tech company based on cryptocurrency encryption. Countless people in our community have invested time, money, and energy into helping these businesses thrive.
So why are they leaving?
Two companies who have previously worked with us have moved out of Wyoming, and one more is considering heading to Salt Lake. Dozens of jobs have left or will leave with them.
They’re not leaving because they don’t love Wyoming, its tax laws, or that they crave city life; they simply cannot find consistent employees due to a shortage in housing.
Our up and coming businesses are leaving, and taking diverse job growth with them. We have the same issue on the public sector side in Teton County: our teachers, firefighters, nurses and police officers cannot afford to own a home in the community they contribute so much to, when the median home price is nearly two million…so they’re leaving too.
The lack of workforce harms all businesses. At least half a dozen restaurants and shops around town including Mursell’s Sweets and Lee’s Tees have limited hours or close on certain days simply because they do not have enough people to staff them.
I’ve had 7 friends leave due to issues with housing, either because they are getting removed from their home yet again by their landlord who wants to sell to a developer, or because they’d be paying 40%- 50% of their income in rent.
As an entrepreneur, I would be concerned about basing a business in a place without a stable workforce. The costs that hiring and training employees, only to have them leave, or to have their work affected by housing instability is simply to high. If investing in affordable housing is the price of doing business and creating a thriving community – I’m more than willing to pay it.
Fortunately, we have tools that can help balance the growth of jobs and housing, and this bill would threaten our ability to manage our affairs on a local level. There is much to discuss within our community about how to meet the needs of community members, employees, and businesses.
I urge you not to advance this bill into the session. We need every tool at our disposal to continue to attract diverse economic opportunities in Wyoming.