TORRINGTON, Wyo. — Now that it’s official the Western Sugar will no longer be processing beet sugar in Torrington and 92 employees have been informed they will be permanently laid off come January, it’s time for Torrington to look to the future — and brace for the economic impact.
According to the University of Wyoming Center for Business and Economic Analysis, Western Sugar’s departure could trigger major reverberations for years to come. The center ran the scenario through IMPLAN: Economic Impact Analysis Planning, an economic scenario analysis tool, and the numbers weren’t in Torrington’s favor.
IMPLAN estimated the lost jobs at Western Sugar will lead to direct losses of $4.2 million in labor income and a loss of $47.5 million in lost output.
The analysis also found that indirect losses to Torrington and Goshen County could be another $3 million of lost labor income and $12.2 million in lost output through reductions in business and household spending, which could result in the loss of an additional 96 jobs throughout Goshen County.
According to UW CBEA interim director David Aadland, those numbers reflect the worst-case scenario.
“There will definitely be adverse economic impacts for Torrington and the county,” Aadland said. “The numbers above assume a worst-case scenario where all 92 jobs are lost and the workers completely leave the county. Of course, these losses would be scaled back if the workers find other jobs in the county and/or continue to reside in the county.”
Torrington Mayor Mike Varney has been vocal about the ways Torrington could suffer. He said the real impact of the elimination of the sugar line won’t be felt for a few years – but Torrington will feel it.
“It backs my statements that this could be devastating, and more far-reaching than we realize at this time,” Varney said. “Direct funding, if it still exists, from the State of Wyoming to Goshen County and the City of Torrington could be reduced, with the first real effects felt in 2020.”
If even a few of those 92 workers who are scheduled to be laid off leave the area, Varney said the economy will pay the price for Western Sugar’s progress.
“In 2020 we have a new census, and if even a small percentage of these workers leave the area, that could relate to a loss of income in many other areas that relate to direct distribution of funds from the State of Wyoming, such as sales tax and gasoline tax,” he said. “We probably have one year to breathe unrestricted.”
Goshen County Commission Chairman Carl Rupp said it’s unlikely the county will experience Aadland’s “worst-case scenario,” but for the workers who will be losing their jobs, the situation is already dire.
“It has a big impact,” he said. “If you’re an employee, it’s tremendous. If you’re a seasonal employee, it’s tremendous.
“Once you have this impact for those that work there and grow beets, that’s tremendous. Once it ripples through Goshen County as far as money spent, housing retained and schools – I don’t know all that.”
Western Sugar President and CEO Rodney Perry said last week the Torrington facility would still employ some people in Torrington, as the facility will be used for storing beets and packaging sugar processed in Scotts-bluff, Nebraska. Previous Telegram reports indicated there could be 20-30 people still employed in the Torrington facility after the sugar line shuts down.
Perry also said the impending layoff of 92 employees and the end of sugar processing in Torrington is a part of a plan the company introduced in 2016. That plan involved technological upgrades to the company’s facilities in Scottsbluff and Fort Morgan, Colorado.
“As we announced in Sept-ember 2016, we would be investing in newer technologies and expanding our Scottsbluff facility and our Fort Morgan facility,” Perry said. “At that time, we said it would be over the next 24 months, then with that going effect and doing those projects, we would be reducing our activities and workforce in Torrington.”
Advance notice or not, Varney said it’s still a tough situation for Torrington and Goshen County.
“I don’t care what some top executive of Western Sugar says because they have been all over the page in the last three years making statements about this factory,” he said.
“It is always much easier to tell someone that things really aren’t as bad as they appear than it is to convince yourself of the same.”