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Goshen County is a sparsely populated area in Wyoming with a primarily agricultural-based economy. The closure of Wyoming Ethanol (25 jobs), and impending closure of Western Sugar (325 jobs), will result in significant job losses for the area. Goshen County has seen a 57 percent increase in agricultural products sold, and with 1.37 million acres of farmland, the area is solidifying its position as the gateway to agriculture in Wyoming. Through focus groups and information provided by Eastern Wyoming College’s Agricultural Advisory Board, the need to offer customized training and degrees targeted toward industry areas has emerged. Currently, the infrastructure of Eastern Wyoming Community College (EWCC) is incapable of meeting the projected workforce demands due to a lack of an agricultural training facility, which poses a severe problem in advancing the agricultural industry of Goshen County.
In September 2016, EDA invested $1.5 million in Public Works funds to EWCC to fund construction of the Agricultural Technology Education Center (ATEC), which will provide new laboratories for training and education, and foster workforce partnerships to meet the current and future agricultural needs across eastern Wyoming and western Nebraska. The ATEC will enable EWCC to expand its curriculum to provide the foundation for jobs in the primary areas of Agribusiness, Agriculture Production, Horticulture, Agronomy, Agroecology, Resource Management and Ag-science.
EWCC is planning to invest $100,000 over the next five years to ensure ATEC staffing levels meet the anticipated workforce and educational needs. This projected increase in funding will add 3 to 5 additional positions to service over 50 new full time students by 2021. Additionally, EWCC’s Foundation, through matching funds, has allocated $48,000 per year to assist with scholarships for nontraditional students. These associated funds will be able to pay the tuition for over 50 dislocated workers per year.