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As we are halfway into what the Wyoming Office of Tourism named the “Year of Wyoming Women,” small businesses owned by women are in the spotlight. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced an investment in the Wyoming Women’s Business Center (WWBC) based in Laramie.

The WWBC works hard to provide business support and resources to small businesses owned by women across the state. They offer training, counseling, roundtables and business planning for entrepreneurs and have active partnerships with the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Wyoming Business Council. The USDA investment will help to hire a training coordinator, an e-commerce web contractor and a photographer to enhance the assistance the center can provide to Wyoming businesses. These new resources will help Wyoming as the WWBC will be able to provide educational and developmental programs to small businesses across the state. The USDA said that this technical assistance will help promote existing and emerging small businesses in Douglas, Laramie, Lusk, Rawlins, Riverton, Torrington and Wheatland.

The “Year of Wyoming Women” is special as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of women’s suffrage in Wyoming. In 1869, Wyoming became the first territory to allow women to vote and to elect a female public official. Fifty years later, the Senate passed the 19th amendment recognizing the right of all women across the country to vote. Wyoming is proud of its history behind this movement. The WWBC is a valuable reminder of our commitment to equality in every phase of the state's economic development. This business center helps to further cement our state as the Equality State.

While Wyoming has been a leader for women’s equality, Wyoming is also championing the number of small businesses owned by women in the state. Many women are at the frontlines of our business communities. Wyoming has more than 19,000 women-owned businesses, up 22 percent in the past 12 years, according to the Wyoming Business Report. Wyoming ranks in the top ten for women’s businesses that have the highest vitality, or employment growth rate and average numbers of employees. Our state has a vibrant small business culture and, thanks to organizations such as the WWBC, women-owned businesses are continuing to develop and grow.

Women looking for help to start their own business can reach out to the WWBC for support, a crucial resource to women entrepreneurs across the entire state. The WWBC also helps people of color, people with low incomes and people with disabilities. Folks in Wyoming can receive technical assistances, counseling, training, business planning, access to capital and networking to help get a business off the ground. You can find more information at www.wyomingwomen.org.