Nicholas has been involved in workforce and economic development in Wyoming for the last 10 years, from helping disabled veterans find good jobs to helping small business owners around the state start or grow their enterprise. A bit of his background: he was born and raised in Wyoming and served as a paratrooper in the U.S. Army from 1999 to 2003. When he returned from service, he enrolled in the University of Wyoming and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Journalism. He is passionate about strengthening the community through entrepreneurship and working towards building a thriving entrepreneurship ecosystem throughout the state.

To you, what is an Ecosystem Builder?

An ecosystem builder is a connector, a systems thinker, an inclusive collaborator, and a champion for the community.

What motivates you as an ecosystem builder?

Bringing people with different backgrounds together for common purpose

What is the most successful/impactful program/event/thing you do/have done in your ecosystem?

Playing a part in implementing the Community Navigator Pilot Program has been my biggest source of pride because I see it as one of them most impactful economic development programs Wyoming has seen in some time. The Wyoming Community Navigator Pilot Program brought together seven economic development partners under one umbrella, provided funding to hire staff and deliver new services, established a strong referral network, strengthened existing relationships with ecosystem partners, and created new partnerships with non-traditional partners like community groups and local non-profits around the state.

What is the biggest challenge you face as an Ecosystem Builder?

Funding. Finding enough funding to continue the work has been a huge struggle.

What is your biggest frustration as an ecosystem builder?

It’s like pulling teeth gettting people to adopt a new systems-thinking approach to economic development.

What ecosystem building skill/knowledge do you want to gain?

Combining federal and state grants to do big, impactful projects and managing them well!

What are the most important things that need to happen to advance the field of ecosystem building?

Culture change away from the old economic development models and adopting an ecosystem approach that is people- and community-centric.

How Can We Support You in Your Efforts

Just spread the word that the community navigator pilot program was a good program and did some good.

Where Can People Learn More About Your Work?

Please connect with me via LinkedIn, I’ll be posting updates there.

Jeff Bennett

Founder and Editorial Director at Ecosystem Builder Hub. Former/retired co-founder and President at StartupSac. Semi-retired ecosystem building writer.