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IDEA director moving on

May 8, 2014 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Christopherson has held the position for 10 years

Phil Christopherson is moving to Gillette after 10 years as executive director of IDEA Inc., Riverton's economic development entity.

Christopherson will begin working as executive director for the Campbell County Economic Development Coalition in June; his last day with IDEA is May 23.

"We regret it," IDEA Inc. president Alan Moore said, congratulating Christopherson for the achievement. "It's been a long association."

Christopherson, 53, began working for IDEA Inc. in 2004 through a partnership with Manufacturing Works, a nonprofit organization with locations throughout Wyoming. Since then, Moore said Christopherson has been "instrumental" in the completion of several economic development projects, beginning with the construction of a new railcar repair building in 2006 for Bonneville Transloaders Incorporated in Shoshoni.

Christopherson also was "intimately" involved in the development of a new local child care facility in Riverton, Moore continued, referring to the Smart Start extension that opened in 2009 on North Eighth Street West in Riverton. And IDEA Inc. still is working to fill the building that it purchased in 2009 with Christopherson's help; the structure on West Main Street stood empty for more than a decade but now houses Legacy Molding and the Bealls department store.

"We still have 12,000 feet available," Moore said.

Christopherson is currently working on two more projects, including the development of a 300-acre parcel north of Riverton between Honor Farm Road and Webbwood Drive.

"We're trying to get (the land) into private hands so it can be developed," Christopherson said. "That is critical for the growth of Riverton. There is no growth path except northwards."

The other project has to do with service at Riverton Regional Airport. Christopherson is vice chair of the airport task force that was formed to address problems with flight delays and cancellations.

"It'll be hard to leave that (task force)," he said. "All entities in the county are coming together to focus on that one issue."

He will fill similar roles in his new job in Campbell County, but Christopherson pointed out that the primary community there is larger. There are about 30,000 people in Gillette compared to 10,000 in Riverton.

"There's a lot of opportunity in Gillette," Christopherson said. "It's the next logical step in my career."

He said he will miss the friends he has made in Fremont County, including the members of the IDEA Inc. Board of Directors, but he thinks his departure could be the best move for Riverton.

"It's probably time for someone with different methods and thinking (to) come in and probably help IDEA Inc. go to the next level," Christopherson said.

He applied for his new job in January after seeing it posted by the Wyoming Economic Development Association, and he said he told the IDEA board about the process.

"They've been very supportive," Christopherson said.

Moore is in the process of finding Christopherson's replacement, who may come through Manufacturing Works as well. The candidate also could be hired independently, Moore said, adding that it would be preferable to find a replacement as soon as possible considering the ongoing projects Christopherson is involved with.

"This is not a really good thing," Moore said. "The (IDEA Inc.) Board of Directors has some time they can use, but not a whole heck of a lot of time."

Christopherson moved to Riverton 15 years ago to work for Manufacturing Works after spending time as an engineer for The Boeing Company in Seattle. He and his wife, Lori, grew up in Casper, where Christopherson was involved in his family business. He has owned several businesses himself over the years, including Daylight Donuts & Yellowstone Ice Cream in Riverton. He will sell the restaurant now that he is moving to Gillette.

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