Gillette believes in its coal - KOTA Territory News

Gillette believes in its coal

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Energy production drives Wyoming's economy, especially in Campbell County, the heart of the state's coal industry.  But energy revenues are down.  About nine percent less coal was produced in 2012 than 2011.

That's bad news for many Gillette businesses like L & H Industrial, which supplies parts and mechanical work for the coal industry.

"One year ago, we really saw a downturn in our demand for what we do and then it continued to get worse throughout the year.  We were down 25 to 30 percent on our revenue locally," said L & H Vice President Jeff Wandler.

Many blame federal regulations for dropping production and Gillette Mayor Tom Murphy also notes the effects of current natural gas prices.

"Many of the power plants back east can switch over to natural gas from coal and do so because of the price," said Murphy.

But Murphy expects coal to bounce back.

"We've seen these markets rise and fall in the past and I'm not worried at this point," said Murphy.

The area's chamber of commerce says the local economy is still strong and growing despite coal's bad year.

"We still have people moving here for jobs.  We still have jobs.  We still have organizations and businesses opening in our community," said Campbell County Chamber of Commerce President Julie Simon.

And businesses like L & H will certainly survive, but the company may see less growth this year.

"Scale back a little bit.  Things like not hiring people.  That kind of thing and just run kind of lean through it," said Wandler.

Murphy remains optimistic because he expects deals will get done to send Powder River Basin coal to Asian markets and he anticipates natural gas prices to level off in a year or two, increasing demand for coal.

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