Former Amoco Site Surges with New Development, Business Accelerator

From the remains of a refinery closed for nearly 20 years, Casper has turned a brownfield site into a 4,000-acre multiuse development that will soon include the Casper Business Innovation Center.

By
Michaela Jackson
On Sunday, September 11, 2011 - 18:58

A 4,000-acre former Amoco refinery complex in Casper is being transformed from a brownfield site into a showpiece business and recreational development that, thanks to a new marketing/development agreement and the realized vision of an innovation center, is only gaining more traction. 

The Amoco Reuse Agreement Joint Powers Board (JPB) has signed a 25-year agreement with Jona Inc. to improve and market the BP-owned Platte River Commons and Salt Creek Heights.

Platte River Commons Will Expand

Jona will act as the developer of the property, says JPB Executive Director Alice Kraft. “This firm is more of a land management company,” she says. “If we need roads or buildings built, they will build them. The profits will be shared between the two parties. We’re also working with BP North Americas to get the fee simple title of Salt Creek Heights so that we can sell, rather than lease, this property.”

The Commons is already a contributer to Wyoming economic development, as home to a high-end office building, the State Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the championship Three Crowns Golf Course and a popular restaurant. More office and retail development is planned, particularly when the southwest part of the Platte River Commons is opened with better accessibility and aesthetic improvements. The Platte River offers rich recreational activities, from kayaking to fly-fishing to bird-watching.

2012 Target for Casper Innovation Center

JPB is also in partnership with the Casper Area Economic Development Alliance Inc. (CAEDA), a public-private economic development organization, for the development of the Casper Business Innovation Center in the historical 14,000-square-foot Amoco administration building. An additional 30,000 square feet will be added to the structure, which will be leased back to the innovation center for $1 a year. The project surpassed its $10.5 million fundraising goal; construction begins in 2011, with a targeted spring 2012 opening.

“The economy of Wyoming is largely focused on energy and extractive minerals, and for many years there has been a desire to diversify the economy,” says CAEDA President and CEO Robert Barnes, CEcD. “This incubator will work toward that as a knowledge-based, general-purpose innovation center, with two wet labs, robotics labs, conference and resource rooms and a multitude of offices.”

Barnes and Kraft are both optimistic that the center entrepreneurs will successfully springboard from incubator status into office and light industrial developments located in the Commons, which in turn will improve Wyoming economic development as a whole.

DeAnna Adams was hired in early 2010 by CAEDA as the center’s director. A member of the National Business Incubation Associationboard, Adams came to Casper from Mississippi, where she was the director of the Mississippi e-Business Innovation Center.

“We are partnering with other entities in the community to establish a business accelerator that will jump-start new businesses,” Adams says. “We have so much to draw on here, from the medical community, alternative energies, robotics and oil and gas. We will help our entrepreneurs establish good business practices, move them forward in a timely fashion and create jobs.”

“This will be a full-service incubator,” Barnes explains. “Our services will include investors, coaches, mentors and of course, the center itself. We want to offer our client companies every advantage to help them be successful.”

In addition to JPB and CAEDA, partners and contributors include the Wyoming Business Council, the Economic Development Administration, Economic Development Joint Powers Board, HUD, American National Bank, City of Casper, Natrona County, First Interstate Bank, Hilltop National Bank, the Walmart Foundation and Wells Fargo.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michaela Jackson has worked as a reporter for The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville, Tennessee, as well as a freelance writer for a variety of regional and national magazines.