CHEYENNE - Laramie County launched its first Next Generation Sector Partnership in August, focusing on the construction industry, and in December, the county took another step toward the future with the launch of another sector partnership.
Eleven hospitality industry leaders came together on Dec. 6 to identify opportunities and actions needed to promote the growth of the sector. In addition, 21 community partners from workforce development, education and economic development attended as observers. This partnership is modeled after similar partnerships across the country that are achieving real results for businesses, job seekers, regional economies and businesses.
The Next Gen strategy aims to position industry professionals as the leaders in economic growth, with the public sector following their lead. It's a reversal from how such partnerships tend to operate, with the public sector frequently directing industries toward their own vision of the future. And it asks companies to do something they wouldn't normally do: sit down with their competitors to discuss mutually beneficial progress.
The Dec. 6 meeting was facilitated by John Melville, Wyoming's Next Gen Coach and Facilitator, and co-convened by Penny Fletcher, Human Resources Manager for Little America Hotel & Resort, who also serves as one of the business leaders in the hospitality sector.
"It makes so much sense to have the business leaders get together and make the decisions that affect their businesses," Fletcher said, "and there's already a lot of support. There is so much enthusiasm and energy, and it's a real win for the hospitality and tourism industry."
At the Next Gen Academy in May, participants from the public sector as well as various private sectors divided the state into eight regions and chose an industry in each region to focus on first. In making that decision, participants considered multiple factors, including the need and potential for growth within the sectors. Participants then brainstormed specific people and companies from the chosen sectors that should be invited to participate in the partnership meetings.
As with the construction sector partnership launch, the hospitality industry reps landed on three categories for opportunity:
- Growing markets, driven by overall U.S. and regional economic growth, and new products and services such as "off season" western experiences, a focus on locals and surrounding areas, and others
- New infrastructure and technology, including new local attractions and facilities, new convention center, building projects, new event spaces and entertainment, new communication channels via social media, new delivery technology
- Regional assets, including a skilled and passionate workforce, commitment to staff development, strong education offerings and strong relationships and partnerships among local company executives.
The participants also identified the most important requirements to capitalize on these opportunities. Their priorities grouped into three major areas for action: Cheyenne Experience Training; Talent Recruitment Campaign - Passionate People for a Cool Industry; and B-to-B Connections.
Cheyenne Experience Training focuses on preparing new and existing staff in the hospitality industry with a better understanding of the range of experiences available to visitors and residents, so they can better advise and refer customers to local companies, attractions, events and the like. Trainees would directly visit or sample the variety of local offerings, with different businesses taking responsibility for developing and delivering their part of the training day. Participating companies would make the experience training a strong priority by requiring it for onboarding of new employees or for continuing education of existing staff, rewarding employees for effective customer referrals, and in other ways.
The talent recruitment campaign will focus on a new way of promoting the hospitality industry to potential, longer-term employees, increasing the flow of people who are a "fit" for careers in the industry. These would be employees who are passionate, love the region and want to be able to move up in the industry, rather than those simply looking for a short-term job.
B-to-B connections focuses on increasing productive connections among businesses and employees in the hospitality industry by holding "business partnering forums" where local hospitality business leaders can understand each other's products and services as well as how they might connect or bundle them, resulting in new business collaborations benefitting the industry. Additionally, the creation of an "E-to-E" network would provide a platform for employees from different businesses to connect, strengthening the feeling of community among industry employees, as well as improving knowledge and referrals across the "Cheyenne Experience."
Fletcher said it was refreshing to see these business leaders come together and share their ideas. "They're not afraid to tell their 'trade secrets,' " she said. "One of the business leaders, Will Luna, said, 'When one of us wins, we all win.' This partnership can only benefit Cheyenne as a whole."
At the end of the workshop, Melville asked for volunteers from the room to champion one or more of these opportunities by participating in a conference call and an additional meeting, likely in January.
Each of the three categories had multiple volunteers for champions.