Groundbreaking for Wind River Job Corps Center Friday in Riverton; Enzi said employers are ready to hire

By ERNIE OVER, County10.com

(Riverton, Wyo.) – Over 150 people gathered Friday morning on a bluff overlooking Riverton for the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Wind River Job Corps Center. Federal, Wind River Reservation, State, County and Local officials were there for the event,which featured Sen. Mike Enzi as the keynote speaker. Wyoming’s Senior U.S. Senator praised the effort and the individuals and organizations who fought for the center. Enzi also said he was happy to support the project because of the benefits that it would bring to Wyoming in the form of a trained workforce for those who need the jobs the most. “We have employers ready to hire the graduates right now,” he said. Enzi recounted the history of how the center became to be authorized in a bipartisan effort with Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, and how the two worked to protect funding for the project until the contract could be let. The City of Riverton was framed in the background of Friday’s event. (EO)

The Wind River Job Corps Center site is on the second bench above the valley of the Wind River, a hill known to locals as Griffey Hill. The view of the valley below and the Wind River Range on the western horizon is spectacular at the site, something more than one speaker referred to at this morning’s event. The site was leased to the U. S. Department of Labor by the City of Riverton and, thanks to a $1.5 million grant from the Wyoming Business Council, utility infrastructure has already been put in place at the job corps site. The city is in the final stages of completing a two-million gallon water tank that will serve the Job Corps, and western Riverton. A reconstruction of the Airport Road leading to the site is also in the works. Rafter H. Construction of Rexburg, Idaho was the successful bidder to be the general contractor. The $41.3 million bid includes construction and landscaping of the 7 building job corps campus, which is expected to employ 400 workers during the construction phase, with 100 permanent employees after the center is in full operation. A total of 300 students will be served at the center once it reaches full capacity.

As the large group settled into their chairs, a moment of silence was held for the late Sen. Robert A. Peck of Riverton and the late Eastern Shoshone Tribal Liaison Eddie Wadda, both champions of the center and of youth who both passed away before the project became a reality. Riverton Public Works Director Bill Urbigkit was also acknowledged. As Mayor Ron Warpness said, “Bill has worked tirelessly on this project for years and it is a cruel twist of fate that he is not able to be with us this morning due to a health issue.”

“We all knew that this glorious day would come, even though in a small dark corner of our mind the public voices we would sometimes hear ‘it will never happen’ would rear is ugly head. We would beat back that fear with a big smile and a strong positive confirmation of ‘Yes It Will.’ We were right. They were wrong,” Warpness said.

Fremont County BOCES Executive Director Sandy Barton noted that today was “Six years, six months and two days” since Congress authorized the Wyoming Job Corps Center, which she credited Senator Enzi with guiding the project through Washington’s bureaucracy.

Letters of congratulations from Sen. John Barrasso, Rep. Cynthia Lummis and Gov. Matt Mead were read, as they were unable to attend the ceremony, but they were represented by their respective Wyoming staff members.

The new Eastern Shoshone Tribal Liaison, Sara St. Clair, said the jobs this center will produce “are a godsend to our youth.”

Northern Arapaho Tribal Liaison Gary Collins praised the cooperation between five levels of government, Tribal, Federal, State, County and Municipal, who worked together to make this day happen. “It was nothing short of a miracle to get five governments working together,” Collins said, who also mentioned the opportunities for future cooperation.

Representing the U. S. Department of Labor at Friday’s event was Linda Soliz, the Dallas Regional office of Job Corps Director. The architect for the project, Carol Coover-Clark of Denver also attended. Fremont County’s state legislative delegation was present, including Sen. Eli Bebout, Rep. Patrick Goggles, Rep. David Miller, Rep. Lloyd Larsen, and Rep. Rita Campbell. Travis Becker represented the Fremont County Commissioners and members of the Riverton City Council were on hand, plus representatives from area school districts, the Wyoming Department of Education, the Wyoming State School Board, the Wyoming Community College Commission and Central Wyoming College. Wyoming Workforce Services was also represented along Roger Bower, regional director for the Wyoming Business Council.

Among those who hoisted the gold painted shovels were representatives of the local Energy industry, who will play a large role in the educational programming of the Center, which is to have an Energy Industry focus, the only one of its kind in the country. Representatives from Marathon, Encana, Devon, and ConocoPhillips were all in attendance.

Editor’s Note: County10.com’s Managing Editor Ernie Over was the Master of Ceremonies for the groundbreaking ceremony.