an the land of the wild, wild West become the next high-tech haven of choice?
It can if more executives follow the example of Kent Holliday, the founder of Eleutian Technology in Cody, Wyo.
The world's largest network of certified instructors who teach English as a second language, Eleutian recently made its home in the town made famous by Buffalo Bill Cody.
Founded in 2006 in Ten Sleep, Wyo., Eleutian is the brainchild of Holliday, a telecommunications industry expert who has spent more than a decade in Asia.
"Two years ago, we made the decision to work with Forward Cody to work on a new headquarters building in Cody," says Holliday, president and CEO of Eleutian. "Forward Cody and the state of Wyoming built the building and we now lease the building from them."
The facility is just over 10,000 sq. ft. (930 sq. m.) in size and houses more than 20 full-time Eleutian employees. More importantly, says Holliday, the Cody location enables Eleutian to thrive at what it does best: Hire rural teachers to give English lessons online to students in China, Japan, Korea and other Asian countries.
With an extensive background in broadband work — including stints at CISCO Systems and Ericsson — Holliday witnessed the rapid growth of broadband connectivity throughout Asia.
Combined with the advances in video-conferencing technology, Holliday saw an opportunity to deliver a needed service to Asian people who wanted to further ties with the West.
"We moved back to Wyoming to be near family, and we were going to start the business in Utah," says Holliday. "My wife had put our daughters in school at Ten Sleep, a town of just 304 people. The school principal wanted us to stay."
With ample fiber newly installed in the community, Holliday made the decision to stay there and launch his company out of a utility closet. It worked.
"We started teaching courses from the school in Ten Sleep," he says. "Six years later, we now hire hundreds of teachers to teach hundreds of thousands of students each year."
Eleutian hires teachers from rural Wyoming and other parts of the Mountain West. In March 2011 the company opened a teaching center in Spearfish, S.D.
Not Very Taxing
The move to Cody made sense for several reasons, Holliday notes. "We really needed access to an airport, and the Cody airport has daily flights to Salt Lake City and Denver," he says. "We are also about 100 miles [160 km.] from Billings, Montana, which has direct flights to Seattle, Minneapolis and Chicago."
The size of the community was a factor too. With 10,000 people in Cody and 27,000 in all of Park County, "it allows us to recruit employees and families," says Holliday. "We have great schools, great sports programs, great resorts and, of course, Yellowstone."
He especially likes the available labor pool. "They are great workers here and they have a tremendous work ethic," he adds. "We have been able to find excellent teachers both in the Mountain West and the Midwest."
Holliday also praises the Wyoming business climate. "Wyoming is really an unknown opportunity for a lot of people on the East Coast," he says. "From a business perspective, it is unbelievable. It is a very friendly state with no state income tax and no corporate income tax. Productivity of employees here is very high. The state is very heavily invested in education."
The clincher, he notes, is that the main north-south route of the Internet in the U.S. runs right through Wyoming. "The infrastructure here is very good for broadband technology," he says.
Other firms would seem to agree. After visiting more than 50 sites across the country, EchoStar Broadcasting Corp. recently located a 77,000-sq.-ft. (7,153-sq.-m.) data center in the Cheyenne Business Park just east of Cheyenne along Interstate 80.