But look in the right places and you can find state-of-the-art research, precision robotics and one of the fastest-growing hubs for data centers in the country.
In fact, firms that use high technology are a growing part of the area economy. And while high-profile data centers like those run by
"Twenty years ago, maybe you needed a lot of manual labor," said
One good local example he pointed to was
"A lot of their employees now, a critical component of their employment, are programmers and systems analysts," Bruns said. "These are people processing and developing software code, and most people would say that's high-tech."
Several local manufacturers also have turned to high technology to get the job done. They use what are called "CNC" n Computer Numeric Controlled n machines that are capable of doing precise work.
Such companies include Puma Steel, which makes structural steel using its own in-house engineering and detailing.
"Everything done at Puma Steel is all computer-controlled," Bruns said. "They go from architectural design and layout right to steel welding without any paper.
"We make large-scale fuel cells that use alcohols as fuels," said NDC's president and CEO,
"You also produce lots of extra water, so they have a very green signature, depending on the source of the alcohol."
NDC originally started in
While it currently only employs a handful of researchers, Montgomery said the firm grows to several dozen whenever it gets a military contract.
"You can put explosives in the fuel and the fuel cells will convert the explosive to inert gases and get rid of all the waste," Montgomery said. "The
Also, NDC's researchers have found that byproducts of their fuel cells may also have practical applications.
"Potassium acetate is a de-icer; it's what people use as a standard de-icer for runways," Montgomery said. "You can put it in a garden sprayer and spray your sidewalk and it melts on contact and keeps it melted, even at very low temperatures."
Montgomery said similar de-icers are already on the market, but NDC's de-icer is also made using a process that creates no carbon dioxide. The company is test marketing the product this year.
"We're also looking at a second chemical that has more local interest," he said. "We found that if we use methanol instead of ethanol (in the fuel cells), we can make potassium formate, which is very commonly used in the fracking industry."
Bruns said such industries show there is a definite market for high tech in
The only major stumbling block, he said, is maintaining a viable workforce to fill those jobs. That is an issue that applies to both high- and low-skill employers.
"When you have professional engineers here managing a fleet of 23 satellites in geosynchronous orbit, those are technology workers," Bruns said, referring to the
"When you have four major data centers, you have technology workers. When you have people programming CNC machines, you've got technology workers.
"But the vulnerability of keeping those industries here is labor, the skilled capable labor they need and our vulnerability in attracting more like them to build that edifice one brick at a time."
He said that, at present,
But the major determiner of whether a company will come here, he said, is how many employees it needs.
"Huge firms that have large employment needs, two or three thousand people, are essentially off the table," he said. "But another firm doing exactly that same thing with 200 people is on the table.
"One of the drawbacks to attracting that young professional workforce is having more than one game in town, more than one company that needs those kinds of skills."
Montgomery agreed with that assessment, adding that, it's a "chicken and egg" scenario when it comes to attracting human capital. Oftentimes professionals in high-tech fields like to keep their options open, and it's hard to convince them to move somewhere where those options are few.
"It's very difficult to retail human capital, especially at a professional level," he said. "It has more to do, not so much with
"As more and more manufacturing becomes tech related, we are going to be prepared to welcome those companies to our community," he said. "(That's) because of the infrastructure we put in, the broadband capability we have and because we've concentrated to build a workforce which is a big issue right now.
"As we create an industry cluster here with technologies, we open the doors for a lot of kinds of industries to locate here.
The interest is, long term, to make sure we concentrate on young professionals and skilled workforce."
What follows is a select list of
CTL Thompson: Geotechnical engineering consulting. Includes professionals with backgrounds in geotechnical, civil and structural engineering; industrial hygiene; biology and geology. Located at
Datacorp: Provides data collection, analysis, management and visualization. Specializes in customized surveys and online systems, online data collection and reporting, health-related quality-of-life research and needs assessments for substance abuse and mental health programs. Located at
Emerald Foam Control: Manufactures compounds used to control foam buildup in the food production process for things like sweeteners and potato chips. Located at
Green House Data: Provides high-availability cloud computer hosting, colocation and managed services. Recently announced a
Nortrack: Produces heavy steel parts for the railroad industry, including prestressed concrete railroad ties. Located at
Puma Steel: Uses automated computerized equipment to manufacture structural steel. Includes in-house engineering and detailing, design build and design assist services. Located at
Searing Industries: A manufacturer of welded steel tubing, including high-strength hollow structural tubing. Located at
(c)2014 Wyoming Tribune-Eagle (Cheyenne, Wyo.)
Visit Wyoming Tribune-Eagle (Cheyenne, Wyo.) at www.wyomingnews.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services