Elaine Harvey reflects back on time as Lovell Inc. Director

Fifteen jobs.

That’s how many jobs have been created with the help of Lovell Inc. under Elaine Harvey’s leadership.

“That’s in small and quiet ways,” Harvey said. “Some of it is people who have lived here and done business here but now they’re providing a service that wasn’t here before. They’re able to follow their dreams.”

During Harvey’s three years at the helm of Lovell Inc., she has both led Lovell businesses to success and pushed the town in exciting new directions, but she has also faced down the town’s shortcomings and has seen several opportunities falter because of them.

She has both succeeded and failed, many times. 

Elaine Harvey

When Harvey retired from the Wyoming Legislature in 2016, for a brief moment, she allowed herself to believe that she was finally done. She went to Arizona for six weeks, to get away from it all, and pondered what retirement would look like. 

It didn’t take long for Dave Reetz, Lovell Inc.’s outgoing director, and David Peck, board president, to give her a call. 

“They asked me if I would take the position. I said ‘No. I’m retired,” Harvey recalled. “They asked me if I would consider part-time. I said sure, I’d consider part-time.

“I still had the desire to build something.”

Harvey’s passion for economic development began in the Wyoming Legislature. She had served on the Minerals Business and Economic Development Committee since 2008 and found her niche to be the economic development side of the committee. 

“Let’s build something, was what I thought,” Harvey said. “Let’s make something work. Let’s give small communities the tools they need to be able to do this.”

Like retirement, the allure of a part-time position also turned out to be wishful thinking for Harvey.  She often ended up working 40 to 50 hours a week. She didn’t end up minding that too much.

“It’s been a real fun ride,” Harvey said. 

Lovell Inc.’s greatest assets were their ability to provide structure for a business, provide security and, when needed, consult caution. 

“We’re probably the only type of business that says a failure to start is a big success, and the reason is if someone comes in, and they’d like to do a particular kind of business, then they do their homework, and find it’s not sustainable, there’s not a big enough market here, or they can’t  get their financial plan completed because they’re not deep enough, they don’t own a home or they don’t have equity built in retirement plans or other things. Without us helping them through the exploration part of that, they may have just gone ahead and started it and stood to lose a lot,” Harvey said. “There have been several clients where we said ‘you have a great mind, you have great ambitions, and this is what you need to know to prepare.’”

But, if a business is given the greenlight, Lovell Inc. has a plethora of resources at their disposal. Their greatest is their business incubator, located at the office on 142 East Third Street. Lovell Inc will offer a business space at only $50 a month, gradually increasing that rent until it reaches market value. If a business hits a rough patch, rent can go back down, as well. 

Partnerships with agencies like the Small Business Development Center in Powell gave Lovell Inc. the ability to help upstarts develop business plans and organize finances.

One of Harvey’s biggest
successes is Wes Mangus of
Trieven-Sungold Kennels. When Mangus first walked through Lovell Inc’s door, it was to look into the possibility of providing service dogs for veterans, alongside training hunting dogs. Now he not only trains service dogs, he trains attack dogs and bomb dogs, which he has sold to police departments as large as Phoenix, Arizona. 

Then there’s Air Butler.

“Service oriented businesses are very popular here,” Harvey said. “People are hungry for businesses like an appliance repair man.”

Since incubating the business, Air Butler has managed to employ two employees. He’s almost large enough to employ two more technicians. 

New Age Construction is currently in the incubator and  has since bid and won several jobs. With Lovell Inc.’s guidance, the construction company has become the only local company that uses safety fall equipment at all job sites. Lovell Inc. helped the company develop a safety plan. 

But there have been missed opportunities, as well.

“We don’t have land dedicated to a business park, and we don’t have utilities run outside of city limits. We have great utilities in town, but it’s a lack of infrastructure,” Harvey said.

Craig Trumbull is an example. He had bought a property on the east end of town, which he desired to turn into a campground, with amenities such as mini-golf and other family activities. 

But, there was no sewer line available, so it was a dead end. The lot is currently used as storage.

Don Davis had a property bought on the west end of town. He’s converted a sugar farm house on the property into an Airbnb, but he had plans drawn up by the University of Wyoming School of Engineering for a mini-mall which would sell a variety of recreational supplies, such as guns and ammo, crossbows and fishing gear. 

But there was no sewer line, so there was no go. 

There are other significant issues as well. Harvey recalls courting a cement manufacturing company in 2017, which would create what is called Portland cement out of abundant raw materials in the region, such as gypsum and limestone. The company told her the workforce they needed isn’t available.

“In order for big companies to move in, the railroad said (we can do it) when you have 35 new houses in Lovell,” Harvey said “Watching the building permits, there’s a lot of repairs, there’s a lot of reconstruction. There’s only seven new houses since 2017.”

Harvey has a lot of stories like this. She reflected on a man who had invented a piece of machinery to put on a Bobcat that could do in one day what 10 men did in three. 

Without the ability to secure an appropriate facility due to a lack of a business park, the man is negotiating with Bobcat to sell the patent instead of manufacturing it here in Lovell.

“We developed one man’s personal wealth instead of returning that wealth into the community,” Harvey said. 

Still, the town of Lovell has seen a lot of progress as well, Harvey said. She would not have  left the position if she did not feel confident in its future. 

“I don’t like to do things half-assed and I don’t like to leave things unfinished. But I don’t feel like I am,” Harvey said. “The preparation has been made, the groundwork has been made, with the placemaking and bringing the attention back downtown.”

Stormy Jameson, the new director of Lovell Inc., is a whiz at paperwork and research, making her ideal at securing grants. She has yet to apply for one and lose it, Harvey said. 

Four placemaking grants have been secured since she joined Lovell Inc. 

It’s already created one park next to Lovell Drug. Funding for another park between the local barbershop and Johnson Land and Home has been secured which will create a two to three hole putting green.

Another grant has been secured to design another park, and a mural, next to the Hyart Theatre. Both are expected to be finished by next fall.

Harvey will not be leaving Lovell Inc. entirely. She will serve as the special projects manager, meaning if the greenhouse project moves, which would create both a greenhouse and food hub for the entire Big Horn Basin in Lovell, you can expect her to oversee it and lobby for it down in Cheyenne.  She will also serve as a general consultant for the agency. 

But then again, 15 jobs later, it’s time for Harvey to step back.

“Stormy is itching and ready to go,” Harvey said. “She doesn’t need me to hold her back.”

By Ryan Fitzmaurice