Ayres’ Efforts Help Upton, WY, Win Western Planner Rural Innovation Award

  • By Ayres
  • September 21, 2022

Upton Innovation Center renderingAyres’ consulting on economic development strategies for Upton, Wyoming, helped the community win the Western Planner 2022 Rural Innovation Award last week. Awarded at the 2022 Western Planner Conference, the award recognizes the innovative work of smaller cities and towns.

Why Upton? The Town needed a community-wide economic development strategy, and it looked to Ayres for an innovative plan to create a spark and advance a vision. Ayres collaborated with the Upton Economic Development Board and Executive Director Stephanie Salazar early in the process to assist with the writing of a grant application to the USDA Rural Business Development program. Once the grant was awarded, we created a collaborative approach to community planning that recognizes that in a small town everything is related to economic development.

Ayres used our team’s signature “bullseye” planning approach to quickly and effectively gather information from stakeholders while identifying key strategies to pursue. The workshop included a facilitated discussion with the UEDB Board, a community gathering, a business walkabout, and one-on-one coffee meetings with over a dozen area business owners. Housing, job training, hotels, quality of life were among the topics we heard about. We then generated vision and value statements that captured the essence of Upton.

The strategies work toward supporting business expansion that complements existing businesses while also challenging the community to reinvent its economy for the next generation. One group of strategies looks at using infrastructure investments to drive quality of life, and another spearheads workforce development initiatives.

During our “deeper dive,” the team highlighted next-step action workplans for topics, including:

  • Strengthening recreation and tourism using mountain biking as a central attraction.
  • Growing industry by welcoming entrepreneurs to the proposed Upton Innovation Center.
  • Exploring new housing opportunities through case studies and development concepts.
  • Strengthening the small-town ambiance via Main Street.

The strength of the process stems from being rooted in accentuating what’s great about Upton and targeting new initiatives that build upon local strengths.

Congratulations to the Upton Economic Development Board and the Town of Upton on the award and on taking the huge first steps toward economic development.