Steve Kennerk is one of the entrepreneurs who stayed around. A few years ago, he quit his job as a loan officer to turn his passion for tanning hides into a business, Rocky Mountain Dubbing Co, in Lander, Wyoming. At first, he focused on preparing deer, bison and sheepskin for use as rugs and wall hangings. But soon fly-fishing enthusiasts began buying his dyed deer hide to tie flies. Now, every year, he sells and ships about 500,000 plastic bags filled with fur and other materials to fly makers all over the world. Since florescent green is the company's best-selling color, I spent $3.75 for one as a souvenir.
Across the field from Kennerk's curiously named Rocky Mountain Dubbing Co. is the Eagle Bronze Co. Visitors to the foundry gasp when they spot a herd of life-sized bison commissioned by actor Kevin Costner for his ranch--the huge bronze animals appear to be cavorting in the field.
Sculptors from across the country send their clay molds to be prepared for casting in bronze. The foundry can cast small pieces or 50-foot statues destined to decorate buildings and museums.
If you own a compass, lightweight camping stove or binoculars, there's a good chance they were made in Riverton by employees of the Brunton Co. The company, whose motto is "Get Out There," recently started making and selling the "SolarPort 2.2," a $95 solar-powered recharging unit for computers and cell phones.
Before heading back to New York, we spent the night at the scenic Black Mountain Guest Ranch a few miles from Lander and visited the National Outdoor Leadership School, known as NOLS. College students and adults from all over learn how to survive under duress during challenging expeditions to far-off places. They begin and end their training in the new headquarters building in downtown Lander.
Jane Applegate is a syndicated columnist and the author of201 Great Ideas for Your Small Business. For a free copy of her "Business Owner's Check Up," send your name and address to Check Up, P.O. Box 768, Pelham NY 10803 or e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Sarah Prior contributed to this report.