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Talking Business: The 40th Annual Governor’s Forum

A panel at the Governor's Forum
Chris Mickey
Wyoming Public Media
A panel at the Governor's Forum.

The 40th Annual Governor’s Forum will be next week in Laramie. It will bring business owners from all over Wyoming together to discuss and share ideas through a series of panels. Many people helped organize the event, including Chris Mickey. Wyoming Public Radio’s Taylor Saunders got a preview of the event from him.

This interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity. 

Taylor Saunders: All right, so I'm interviewing you about the Governor's Business Forum, which is happening next week. What is the purpose of the forum? And why do we do this?  

Chris Mickey: The Governor's Business Forum is really Wyoming's premier business event. So it's more like a conference of like minded individuals from the business community in Wyoming. And it's a chance for everybody to get together and discuss issues that are affecting businesses all over the state. And it's a great chance for business leaders across the state to be able to network and see each other. A lot of times, this is the one time of year that friends are able to get together and see each other and talk about how their businesses and work is going. And this is the 40th anniversary of it. So this has been going on in Wyoming for 40 years, which is longer than I've been alive. It's pretty amazing that any event can go on that long, but it just shows how much people enjoy it and the need for it every year. So we're happy to be once again holding it in Laramie. This is the second year that we've had it at the University of Wyoming. And they've been great partners, and we're excited to get it going.

TS: So you mentioned the 40th year anniversary. Is there anything special happening because it's the 40th year?

CM: We really think that it's a special event every year. And so we try to do our best every year to make sure that we bring in World Class speakers, and really try to make it worthwhile for everyone to attend. So while we don't have anything special or specific happening this year, that's different from other years, we do have some fun things like we have old photos from archives of folks that were participating in the governor's Business Forum back in the 80s, and 90s. So we have some slideshows and posters and things like that that we'll have around the venue, which are really fun to look at. There's some legislators and folks in the Wyoming government that I've seen pictures of from 20 or 30 years ago, and it's pretty amazing just to see some of those old faces. From a time where we're still talking about some of the same issues. And it's just really cool to see an event that has such a long, great track record like this one.

TS: Are there any big pictures of the forum? What do you think is the main purpose?

CM: So as part of the business forum, we have what we call the day events. So that's your panel, we have some great opening panels and some keynote speakers that we're really looking forward to. And then every other year, we hold what's called the Wyoming Business Hall of Fame banquet, and that'll take place on Tuesday evening. And that's a chance for us to honor and induct a couple of individuals into the Wyoming Business Hall of Fame that has been going on since 2013. And we induct folks every other year. And then, on the off years, we have what's called the Bill Daniels Ethical Leadership Award. And so that takes place in even numbered years. And then in the odd number of years, we do the Wyoming Business Hall of Fame. So we'll have a big dinner and ceremony for that, as well. And then of course, we just have a lot of wonderful panels taking place on Tuesday and Wednesday. And then on Monday, this is something that we started doing two or three years ago, where we have what's called the pre forum seminar, in which we have started focusing on mental health and wellness, especially in people's workplaces. So this is something that the Wyoming Business Alliance membership is starting to take really seriously. Mental health and wellness in Wyoming is obviously a really big issue. Since you know, we're the number one state in the country and the suicide rate. So business leaders in Wyoming know that if you don't have employees who are mentally well, you can't have an efficient workplace, and you can't get the job done on time and on incorrectly.

TS: So what panels are you looking forward to the most?

CM: We have a couple that we do every year. So one of them is our legislative preview panel. And that's a really cool one because we have some of the state's prominent legislators on that panel. And every year they kind of look forward to this next legislative session and give a little bit of what they think might happen as the session is upcoming. And it's always interesting to hear those and then see what happens when the legislative session actually occurs. And then this year, there's one that we've never done before and it's called the Economic Forecast panel. And this is the first year thatWyoming has released a statewide economic forecast. And I think every other state in the country does this. But this is the first time Wyoming has done it. And so we'll be releasing that forecast and then having a panel to talk about it. And so that one, I think, will be really interesting. I don't know what that will look like, at this point. The folks who did the study at the University of Wyoming know what that looks like, but very few people know. So that'll be a really fun, interesting thing to kind of go over, I guess, unless Wyoming's economic outlook is very bleak. And then I guess it won't be as fun, but it'll still be interesting.

TS: I also read online that there are going to be some important people there. Mark Gordon, and then President Ed Seidel?

CM: Absolutely, yes. So this is the Business Forum, and is usually a partnership between the governor's office, the Wyoming Business Alliance and the University of Wyoming. The governor does an amazing job every year, and he likes to join us every year. So he'll be there to kind of kick things off on Tuesday. And then first lady, Jennie Gordon will also be presenting on her Wyoming Hunger Initiative at the lunch that day.

TS: So is that normal state to state? Or is that exclusively a Wyoming thing?

CM: I'm not sure how many other states do it. ButI can tell you that in Wyoming our leaders are really special people. And they work really hard to get close to the things that are important to them. And so we've had a great relationship with Governor Gordon. He comes every year and he and his staff are always big supporters and are very intimately involved with the planning processes. So we can't thank him and his staff enough for being part of it. And, you know, I would hope that other states do it. But I can just tell you that Wyoming is a special place that we have such amazing elected officials in the state and that includes him and all of his agency directors and on down have all been wonderful help.

Originally from Casper, Wyoming, Taylor moved to Laramie, Wyoming in the fall of 2020. She is a fourth-year journalism major with a minor in jazz at the University of Wyoming. She has participated in many musical ensembles on campus, including the University of Wyoming Symphony Orchestra and the Western Thunder Marching Band. In her free time, she enjoys playing video games, watching cartoons, camping, and swimming.

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