Cheyenne, Wyo., is the northern anchor of the Front Range Urban Corridor, a stretch of busy municipalities that originates in Pueblo, Colo., and runs through Denver along Interstate 25. But despite being Wyoming’s capital and a federal government stronghold (F.E. Warren Air Force Base is here, along with several other agencies), Cheyenne feels more like a small town than a growing urban area, say locals. After all, it is best known as the home of the nation’s largest outdoor rodeo.
“The biggest thing is government,” says local architect Mike Potter, a principal with Potter Architecture and the president of AIA Wyoming. “They tend to be the ones that do the major building.” All three levels of government have been busy building in Cheyenne—even during the recession.
This steady government work has helped create a stable local economy. “We don’t suffer the dramatic ups and downs of the rest of Wyoming’s mineral-extraction-dependent economy, nor are we strongly influenced by the down cycles of the [nearby] Denver economy,” explains Randy Byers, principal of local architecture firm Design Studio. New development is anticipated from spinoffs related to a new National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) facility and the potential of the Niobrara oil play, a recently discovered geological formation that could bring natural gas– and oil-extraction business to the area.
“Cheyenne should be positioned for several years of positive growth,” predicts Dale Steenbergen, president and CEO of the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce. Between government expansion, the recent energy discoveries, and renewed growth up and down the Front Range, it’s no wonder locals are so bullish on the Magic City of the Plains.
2010 population: 58,000; unemployment is below the national average, at 6.8%.
Median home sale price, September 2010: $195,000.
• Small-town atmosphere
• Reasonable cost of living
• Relatively stable economy
• Growth challenging current infrastructure
• Economic reliance on government entities
• Downtown in need of revitalization
“Cheyenne will see steady growth over the next 10 years. The city, county, and economic development agencies have had some success in bringing businesses … that help diversify the economy,” says local architect Randy Byers. “There is great hope that the NCAR facility will spawn other high-tech businesses. I also think Cheyenne’s perspective regarding design and development has matured.”