Great places to live are great places to work, and Sweetwater County's major industries and top employers contribute to a strong economy and attractive quality of life.
The county has long been a leader in the world’s energy industry, and that remains true in 2018. For example, one of the largest producers of natural gas and oil in the world is Halliburton, whose Rock Springs site is where many engineers train for a year before being assigned to oil rigs.
Also strong is the trona and soda ash sector, with the City of Green River having the world’s largest and purest deposits of trona used to manufacture soda ash for commodities like glass, textiles, paper and food. Prosperous area trona and soda ash companies include Ciner Wyoming, Genesis Alkali, LLC (formerly Tronox), Solvay Chemicals and Tata Chemicals.
In all, about 67 percent of Sweetwater County’s total revenue is tied to minerals extraction, and that includes uranium. Local uranium mines operated by Lost Creek ISR and Kennecott Uranium Company are extracting the element and use it for fuel to generate electricity in nuclear power stations throughout the United States as well as in military nuclear submarines and nuclear weapons.
Black Butte Coal produces about 3.4 million metric tons of coal each year and is served by Union Pacific Railroad via an onsite rail loop, while PacifiCorp and its subsidiary Rocky Mountain Power represent the area’s utilities industry.
“We have 67,000 customers in Wyoming as well as 758,000 in Utah and 129,000 in Idaho,” says Tiffany Erickson, spokesperson for Rocky Mountain Power. “One of our largest operation centers is in Rock Springs.”
Erickson says about 61 percent of Rocky Mountain Power’s energy is generated by coal, 14 percent by gas, 6.5 percent hydroelectric and the remainder by renewable sources such as solar and wind.
“We are one of the lowest-cost electricity providers in the United States,” she says. “Rocky Mountain Power works closely with state and local development organizations to help communities enhance their economic vitality.”
Shopping is Hopping
Besides the energy industry, Sweetwater County has a growing retail sector headed by White Mountain Mall, which draws shoppers from around the region and is visible from Interstate 80. Its tenants include Herberger’s, Jo-Ann Fabrics, Maurices, Murdoch’s Ranch & Home Supply and Ross Dress for Less. The mall includes eateries, a children’s play area and Wi-Fi service.
In addition, part of the Rock Springs mall is occupied by a Star Stadium 11 + ARQ theater complex. ARQ is a large auditorium that features a super-large screen, crystal-clear sound, luxurious seating and more, much like an IMAX experience.
Also in Rock Springs is Sportsman’s Warehouse, which opened in September 2016 and employs 35 people. The popular store stocks name-brand hunting, fishing, camping and shooting merchandise.
Views from Above
Two other local business entities have their sights aimed high, including Rock Springs-Sweetwater County Airport, which offers general aviation services, flying lessons, refueling and oxygen recharging, hangar rental and daily commercial flights to Denver.
“The airport is important to our area, providing a $30 million economic impact,” says Dave Hanks, CEO of the Rock Springs Chamber of Commerce. “Many energy and chemical executives use Rock Springs-Sweetwater County Airport, and having such a good, reliable facility is a key asset when trying to attract potential new business into our region.”
Also with an occasional bird’s-eye view of Sweetwater County is WHS, formerly known as William H. Smith & Associates. WHS celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2017 as a long-time company involved with engineering and land surveying, and officials say they have recently expanded their horizons to use drones with built-in cameras to photograph land parcels and plot them on a map.
Using sophisticated software, WHS uses the drone’s photos to construct an accurate model of the site’s terrain in three dimensions, providing great detail for clients looking to purchase a land parcel or construct buildings on the property.