By Ernie Over, WyoToday

The Riverton City Council last week accepted a recommendation from its EDGE Committee on grants from the half-cent tax to local businesses and an organization. The funding totaled $278,054. Four entities were recommended from eight applicants seeking $664,916. City staff were directed to develop funding agreements with each of the successful applicants. They included  Brown Sugar Coffee Roastery with funding of $196,000; High Country Fungus, LLC, for $30,380; Riverton Ice Hockey Association for $25,174; and The Golden Buffalo to receive $26,500.

• Brown Sugar Coffee was requesting funds for an expansion of its manufacturing capability. It is currently located at 203 East Main in Riverton and is moving its manufacturing to 330 Broadway. According to its application, this move will provide the business with the additional square footage needed to expand its manufacturing. The building at 330 Broadway requires a massive remodel to be able to accommodate food manufacturing.  According to its application, a larger roasting facility would allow for an increased volume of coffee to be manufactured, packaged, and shipped. This larger facility will require additional jobs at all facets of production, including plant manager, machine operators, fillers, boxers, and shipping expediter. Brown Sugar Coffee Roastery ships coffee via online retail throughout the U.S. It is in the process of setting up wholesale accounts with restaurants, convenient stores, and boutique hotels throughout the Western/Central United States.

• High Country Fungus said in its application that it was a winner in the 2022 Fremont County Impact 307 Start-up Challenge. Using those resources, the company completed the first phase of development, and it is now at the next phase. The company is growing custom-fit and standardized mushroom-grown packaging in thermoformed plastic molds. It is working through its first prototypes for local clients. The next phase would require additional machinery, equipment, supply, and operational assistance. The process will require a thermoforming machine, pasteurization unit, rolling shelves and other supplies.

• The Riverton Ice Hockey Association plans improvements to its rink in the coming year according to its application. Included is an upgrade of its heating system for spectator seating. The association’s rink, adjacent to Park Street and Smith Road, is one of only two hockey association facilities in the state that does not have an enclosed temperature-controlled ice rink. As a result, during very cold weather, the open-air rink without heating results in significantly less spectators for hockey. Upgrading the heating system, the association says, will provide a more comfortable environment and thus more skaters and spectators.

• The Golden Buffalo Fine Jewelry reported in its application that it has been a local business for over 25 years, employing two master jewelers for the majority of that time. The demand for custom-designed jewelry has steadily increased, the application noted, and now comprises about 35% of the total sales volume of the store. Due to the time required in manufacturing custom jewelry, the business is not able to grow in this area without improving the efficiency of its jewelers. It requested improvements in AutoCAD software and 3D printing to reduce production time by 70%. With those improvements the business can hire another full-time employee.

Applications that were not successful for this grant period included the Fremont Local Market, Riverton Youth Soccer Complex Expansion, the Rendezvous City Beef Round-up, and the Riverton Downtowners Main Street Alliance. Mayor Tim Hancock, who attended a portion of the EDGE grant meeting, said he was impressed that the EDGE Board recommended other funding sources for the projects that were not funded. He said EDGE members also suggested that some of the applicants reapply with better information for the next round of funding. “I was impressed that they took that extra step to help the applicants,” he said.

Before the vote to approve the recommendations, Councilor Kristi Salisbury said she wanted to revisit the application from the Rendezvous City Beef Round-up due to its growth as a premier local event that draws folks from around the region. Finance Director Mia Harris said the EDGE account would have enough funding remaining if that application was approved. “If we want to do it, we’d have the money,” Mayor Hancock said. “Or we can put it on a future agenda if you want.” Councilor Mike Bailey said the recommended projects could be approved at the meeting and the Beef Roundup folks could come back. That is what the consensus of the council was, so it will be brought back at a future meeting.

Bailey also sought reassurances that EDGE Committee member Janet Winslow had not voted on the request from the Golden Buffalo, as she is an owner of the business. He was told she had recused herself from the discussion and vote.