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UW Agrees to Purchase Land in Cirrus Sky Technology Park

Laramie City Manager Janine Jordan and City Councilman Klause Hanson discuss the Cirrus Sky Technology Park at an open house. (Kari Eakins, Townsquare Media)

Plans to develop the Cirrus Sky Technology Park in Laramie have received a significant boost with the signing of an agreement by the University of Wyoming to buy a portion of the proposed development.
As a result of the agreement with the City of Laramie and Laramie Economic Development Corporation (LEDC), UW officials have an option to buy approximately 23 acres of the proposed technology park to serve as a home for high-tech firms that spring out of the university’s business development efforts.

“The city is one step closer to delivering some of the high-paying jobs and clean economic development that the people of Laramie want,” says Mayor Scott Mullner. “We’re delighted to further strengthen our partnership with UW to help southeast Wyoming become a hub for high-tech industries.”

The Cirrus Sky Technology Park, which the city and LEDC propose to develop on the northern boundary of Laramie, will take advantage of the regional synergy which has developed among Laramie’s burgeoning technology cluster, UW academic research, and the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center and Microsoft data center in Cheyenne. Southeastern Wyoming is an increasingly desirable environment for technology businesses, data centers, and research and development firms.

Laramie’s robust tech sector already boasts more than 60 clean technology firms, and these existing businesses indicate they will add more than 100 new jobs over the next five to eight years. Cirrus Sky Technology Park is designed to serve as an expansion area for existing, established tech firms as well as prospective data centers and tech businesses relocating to southeastern Wyoming.

Bill Gern, UW’s vice president for research and economic development, notes that many of the tech firms in Laramie resulted from the university’s efforts to encourage research and business development. Close to a dozen start-up businesses are now tenants of the Wyoming Technology Business Center, UW’s business incubator. UW’s portion of the Cirrus Sky Technology Park will provide a place for those businesses, and others formed in the future, to strike out on their own.

“We’re delighted to be the Cirrus Sky Tech Park’s first client,” Gern says. “As we spin out businesses, we want them to have a place to reside, and the tech park is a perfect place for them to set up shop.”

The tech park’s location is ideal in part because it adjoins the Western Area Power Administration’s regional switchyard. The substation is the focal point for four separate regional power transmission feeds, offering extremely reliable electrical service that’s especially attractive to data centers and other technology companies. In addition, the site has ready access to redundant fiber optic telecommunications lines. Local officials learned about the importance of the switchyard and fiber optics while working with a site-selection team for a Verizon data center. That company in 2010 identified Laramie as a prime location to develop a data center and entered into an option to buy land north of the city, but the acquisition of other corporate assets caused a change in Verizon’s business plans.

Microsoft also considered Laramie as the site for a new data center, but the company chose Cheyenne largely because of the availability of a “shovel-ready” site. That experience prompted Laramie and LEDC officials to move forward on a comprehensive plan to develop a technology park, hoping to have it ready to occupy in the fall of 2013.

The city and LEDC have submitted a $5.4 million grant request to the Wyoming Business Council to buy about 150 acres to establish the Cirrus Sky Technology Park, and to create a loop of water, sewer and storm-water infrastructure north from the existing terminus of 30th Street to connect with an extension of 22nd Street. Plans call for the park to include green space and open space and a city-owned biking and walking trail along the ridgeline.

The purchase of tech park property by UW is contingent upon receipt of the Business Council grant by the city and LEDC. The Business Council is scheduled to act on the grant request in December. In the meantime, a zoning plan associated with the Cirrus Sky Technology Park will go before the Laramie Planning Commission on October 8 at 4:30 PM in the City Council Chambers located at 406 Ivinson.

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