Hulett, Wy: A Small Town with Big Plans
3 Feb 2021
Expanding from the shadow of the nation's first national monument, Devils Tower, lies Hulett, a quiet town of about 400 people. Located in the Black Hills of northeast Wyoming, Hulett is known for outdoors recreation like hunting and fishing. But the town of approximately 400 is quickly becoming known for something else: economic growth.
“Hulett is growing at a good, consistent pace,” said Hulett City Clerk Melissa Bears. “People are learning we have an easy pace of living, a central location between Gillette, Spearfish and Rapid City and more reasonable home prices compared to homes on the coasts.”
The growth is coming from several sources, said Bears. During the COVID-19 crisis, the area has seen an influx of people from the coasts looking to escape the congestion of dense urban centers. But longtime residents are finding success recently as well, in ways not envisioned until recently.
“With the Internet and Facebook more impactful than ever, our businesses are learning it is not necessary to be located on the Interstate,” said Bears. “Online business has really changed this area and the locals understand the structure of our economy and what can be successful here.”
New Medical Center
The town will have a new medical facility, called the Red Bluff Medical Center, this summer. The project is targeted to cost $2.5 million and scheduled to be completed by the end of May. The 9200-square foot center will include a medical facility, pharmacy with drive-up window, physical therapy area and leasable office space, preferable for medical-related businesses. The Crook County Medical Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit entity, is the owner of the Center, managing everything from fundraising to construction management. Judy Hutchinson, president of the Foundation, said the Center will be a huge benefit to the area, replacing the current existing clinic that is not large enough to serve the community adequately.
“We serve a large community here and this new medical center will allow for all services to be offered almost every day of the week,” said Hutchinson. “Currently, area residents have to go to other cities because our current services have to share spaces and days.”
Hutchinson said the project is continuing on budget, and while the Foundation has not had to take out a construction loan yet, it may have to do so. Donations can be sent to the address below and the Foundation, as a 501c3 tax-exempt entity, will provide tax receipts.
Crook County Medical Foundation
PO Box 532
Sundance, Wy 82729
606-645-5684 & 307-290-0266
Growth is offering excellent opportunities for entrepreneurs. One example is the new Mercantile 307. As a fun gift, antique and collectable shop, with a farmers market and trendy clothing boutiques, it is home to 45 local artists, craftsmen, bakers and entrepreneurs from Hulett and nearby areas. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, owner Connie Hippen opened Mercantile 307 last May, with a Grand Opening in June. When presented the opportunity to lease a large building with the best location on Hulett’s Main Street, Hippen knew she had to take a chance to provide a spot for artists, craftsmen, quilters and entrepreneurs to have a gallery or store front to display and sell their wares with little overhead or daily commitment.
“The local talent is awesome and there are over 45 different entrepreneurs or households that Mercantile 307 provides a storefront for,” she said. “And that helps put extra money in the local economy every month.”
The combination of its Main Street location close to the Devils Tower National Monument with the shop’s trendy, novel nature offers shoppers a unique option along the tourist route throughout the Blackhills. But Hippen said her business model is based on offering an original business locals will support.
”Hulett is a special place, experiencing an uptick in population as people from other states and areas of Wyoming buy property here seeking small town values, remoteness, low Wyoming taxes and conservative policies,” she said. “Providing an affordable year-round place for residents is paramount if you want loyal customers that see the need and value in shopping local.”
Devils Tower Forest Products
Existing businesses are benefiting from growth as well. As one of five wood processing operations owned by Neiman Enterprises, Devils Tower Forest Products in Hulett operates a sawmill and planer mill. The fourth-generation family business began with its first mill in 1936 and, today, is a leading inland producer of Black Hills pine boards and pattern stock that employs 95 people. As the President and CEO of Neiman Enterprises, Jim Neiman has seen his share of up and down markets. And right now, the mill in Hulett is at full capacity. Another example is the Golf Club at Devils Tower, has seen a significant increase in home sales and memberships as well.
“With COVID-19, the housing market has really taken off as folks are moving out of bigger cities, driving up demand for our products,” said Neiman.
He points to development like the new Medical Clinic and leadership by a progressive city administration as necessary ingredients to continue the growth Hulett is experiencing.
“Towns either grow or they die,” he said. “Hulett is growing and, with the right vision, we can continue to expand from here.”