Economic optimism in the air

David Peck
Our View

There’s something in the air in our community, and it’s not just Jack Frost. It’s optimism in the economic future of our region.

Entrepreneurs have stepped forward to invest in their community at a level we cannot recall in the last 40 years. It’s refreshing and heartening.

When it comes to big money, North Big Horn County doesn’t come close to Jackson or Cody, and not even Powell, but certain individuals have stepped up to the plate in recent years to say, with their projects, that they believe in the future of Lovell and nearby communities.

Think of Dr. Shane Mangus and the myriad properties he has purchased and renovated in our community with his strong belief that our area has tremendous potential for tourism and recreation. For many years, it was difficult for Lovell to promote tourism because there were few good places to stay and a lack of restaurants.

First Bobbi McJunkin and then Dr. Mangus renovated, respectively, the Horseshoe Bend Motel, the Mustang House Airbnb, the Cattlemen Motel and the Lovell Travelodge. Nenette Mangali has improved the Western Motel, as well. Now there are good places for visitors to stay.

The quality of restaurants in the area has soared in recent years, as well, including the Mustang Café in Lovell, Wyoming, 310 in Deaver and the Bull Pub in Cowley. And with the announcement last week by Devin and Stacy Bair that they are building a brand new multifaceted restaurant in Lovell, culinary optimism and enthusiasm in our community has soared to new heights.

Frankly, we can’t remember more local excitement generated by the opening of a new business. Folks can’t wait for The Overlook to open.

The Bairs also built the marvelous Club Dauntless gyms in Lovell, Powell and Greybull, with another in the works in Cody, and the Foster Gulch Golf Course is planning – and soon fundraising for – a large, new clubhouse at the golf course. Watch for more news on that project.

Retail development is likely the next hurdle our community needs to clear. If you go to Cody or Powell on a given evening or Saturday, the streets in the primary downtown shopping district are lined with cars, whereas many times in our community it’s pretty quiet on Main Street.

There is optimism, however, with new businesses like Hillside Floral and the Good Cup, the new location for Wild Edge Screenprinting and Custom Apparel, the upcoming SweetArt Cake Company, the always popular Queen Bee Honey Candy store, and new ownership at other retail outlets in recent years.

Our community has also experienced housing development not seen here in decades, both in Lovell and in Cowley, bringing new families to our neck of the woods and allowing new hires to live here rather than commuting.

Byron is looking forward to the Inductance Energy project, which promises to breathe new life into the Byron community.

Our hospital is seeing amazing progress and innovation, including the new clinic remodel, new emergency department and the state-of-the-art surgical robotics program. It’s truly a facility of which we can be proud.

Many challenges remain for our community and its development, including difficulty hiring staff, high inflation and the difficulties all brick-and-mortar businesses face with the ever growing influence of online shopping. But with this new infusion of capital from entrepreneurs, optimism abounds.

In north Big Horn County we’ve always had the beauty, the recreation and the quality of life. Now we are building the kind of business infrastructure that will cause people to not only visit but also move to our community.

Hats off to those who are making it happen.

-- David Peck