Pending Growth within the Medicine Bow, Wyoming Region

The name “Medicine Bow” has been known to only a few traditional western fans. It is the fictional site of a book that is renowned as the “first Western” novel – The Virginian, by Owen Wister. It has been the setting of three movies based on that novel, but has never been the SITE of the actual filming.

Recently, the name of Medicine Bow has been bandied about within the government and alternative energy circles. If you Google “Medicine Bow Coal to Diesel”, you’ll find a treasure trove of both factual and speculative information.

DKRW, a relatively new company, is in the development process for a coal to liquids facility which will be located just 10 miles from Medicine Bow. The facility will support a workforce of approximately 300 workers when it is fully functioning (numbers vary according to sources, this is the most often repeated number). Work crews are currently reported as being scheduled to begin construction in the spring of 2008.

The facility will be the first of its kind, and represents freedom from foreign oil, as well as significant advances on the environmental front. It is supported not only by regional government, it has widespread support on the national level. Several other facilities are planned to be built, based on the success or failure of this one. Coal states are watching this one.

Land prices in Medicine Bow are already rising. The last round of property taxes showed a fairly high increase in tax values (nearly double for many homes). Of course, since taxes have been very low here, the increases were not huge by standards elsewhere, but they still ruffled a few feathers.

Medicine Bow has had a depressed housing economy for decades. Where else can you purchase a 3 bedroom home in decent shape for under $100 k? WELL under $100 k. That may change within the next two years though. Even the housing of the work crews will present a challenge in a town that usually has only 4-6 houses for sale at a time, and where finding a rental is as much a matter of luck as it is of timing.

Growth within Carbon County in general is already strong. Housing in the surrounding towns is becoming increasingly difficult to get. The spillover is already affecting the ‘Bow. If a person had planned to purchase land low and sell high, the opportunity is already all but gone. The feeding frenzy is already on, and houses that you could not give away last year are being priced at twice their current value. In a year, they’ll get it.

For now, the small and isolated feeling is preserved. And even with growth that doubles or triples the size of the town, we’ll still be considered unbearably small to most people. When you are starting with an optimistic estimation of 300 people, the anticipated growth still won’t move us beyond “small” or “rural”. Most people in town really just want to regain a small grocery store, and it would take doubling or tripling the town size to make it feasible. It may no longer be an unrealistic goal.

Some of the atmosphere that brings people here will undoubtedly be lost. But it would be lost due to stagnation and neglect if the growth does not occur, and loss due to growth is infinitely preferable to loss due to attrition. Things will change. But we hope to find progress within the change.

Take a look at the town website for more info about Medicine Bow:


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