FILE - Wyoming oil

An oil rig in the oil fields of Wyoming

(The Center Square) – A WalletHub report has ranked Wyoming’s economy as the 10th most affected by the COVID-19 crises in the nation.

The report indicated that Wyoming’s heavy reliance on oil and gas, and mineral extraction, as the primary reasons behind the state’s economic disturbance. These industries took one of the hardest hits from the coronavirus pandemic and earned Wyoming sixth place for the state with the most highly affected industries and workforce.

“COVID was just kind of an exacerbation of the issues we’re dealing with in Wyoming with a heavy reliance on one industry,” Ron Gullberg, Strategic Partnerships director for the Wyoming Business Council, told The Center Square.

Before the coronavirus, Wyoming already was trying to address its economic shortcomings with the Wyoming Economic Development Strategic Plan, Gullberg said. The coronavirus put that on hold while also making the problem worse, he said.

“When you look at the confluence of what was already happening in the energy sector pre-COVID, and then COVID hit, and prices fell, there was less production, and then you have the additional effect on tourism and agriculture with the whole transportation/distribution, processing issue, I think that’s probably where they were looking at in the study, and interestingly, things we’ve already been looking at pre-COVID in Wyoming,” he said.

Leveraging state, private and education partnerships, the strategic plan is a collaborative effort focused on adding value to Wyoming’s three current economic pillars of extraction, tourism and agriculture, while also looking for ways to activate new sectors, according to Gullberg.

Gullberg points out the states hospitality and tourism industry took a hit but bounced back pretty quickly.

“Certainly there was a negative effect on the tourism economy and Main Street and what have you, but there was a bit of a bounce back, a little bit of a recovery,” he said.

Wyoming may have been hit hard, but it also led the states in distributing CARES funds to businesses, Gullberg said.

“We got about half a billion dollars out last year,” Gullberg said.

While the efforts to diversify Wyoming’s economy were waylaid by the pandemic, Gullberg says they are getting back at it.

“We’re really leveraging the connections being made with all the partnerships I talked about and hearing what the needs are,” Gullberg said. “There are workforce needs: there’s available workforce and workforce training needs. There’s also investment attraction needs.”

He also said they are looking into the state’s manufacturing supply chain in an effort to future proof it against another disruption like the coronavirus.