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City gives support for community development grants

Oct 3, 2013 By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

The City of Riverton is backing up three grants being pursued by IDEA, Inc., a community development organization in Riverton.

The city council and mayor have approved their support for a Business Ready Community Grant program from the Wyoming Business Council that will help develop businesses and enhance economic growth in a community.

IDEA proposes to purchase roughly 300 acres of land between Pure Gas and Honor Farm roads. The contingency and development agreement stated both the city and IDEA would work toward developing the site and seek developers to purchase and develop the land for businesses and retail expansion.

Public to private

Sen. Eli Bebout sponsored a bill in the spring legislative session that would make it easier for public surplus land to be transferred to private hands. The legislation also stated a report had to be submitted listing the surplus property and the best use of the land. The report suggested the best use for two parcels be commercial development.

The council and mayor approved the resolution that gave support for the plan. The property will be sold in a public auction to give others the opportunity to purchase it.

"The value of the land will be established through an appraisal, which has not yet occurred," said Phil Christopherson, executive director of IDEA. Once the appraisal is done, IDEA will determine their bid.

"If we don't end up with it, we're happy with that," Christopherson said. "We just want to see it in the developer's hands, who can do something with it to help the City of Riverton grow and expand."

A staff report to the council and mayor, stated, "the city will be administering the grant and be responsible for all finances and draw downs."

Within these acres, the city leases land for the use of Wyoming's Modeler's Park. Members of the park's association -- Rich Hardt and Sollie Cadman, along with others -- came forward at the meeting to express their support of the grant application and the support they've received from IDEA to keep the park open or find an alternate location for it, if necessary.

Data center

The other two grant applications would bring a data center to Riverton. A $2.25 million Wyoming Business Council Data Center Incentive Grant program would help PitchEngine -- a technology-based business in Fremont County -- develop a new data center that would help pay for the high costs of broadband and electricity expenses in the city. The Tier-2 data center would be the first to bring in a cloud-based hosting service to Central Wyoming College.

The city council approved the resolution for the grant application and received authorization from the mayor. The center would be in Riverton because of the dual redundant fiber optics required at the facility.

"It is one of the few locations in the county that has that, and that's an absolute requirement for a data center," Christopherson said.

The site and building will be owned by IDEA and leased to PitchEngine.

The state would reimburse 50 percent of the costs on a quarterly basis to PitchEngine, as long as the company matches the cost "with increased employment and capital expenditures." Christopherson said.

The business committed grant application would repurpose an existing building and convert it into a data center. Christopherson said the developers were looking into the Brunton building on College View Drive. That resolution and mayor authorization pledge also were approved by the city. Other percentage matches, outlined in the agreement, would have to be met by PitchEngine on both grants. The center would bring high level technology workers into the workforce.

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