From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 9, Number 5 - April 23, 2009
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Pinedale garners national attention from ABC News
Producer, correspondent reveal positive experiences
by Trey Wilkinson

While most of the nation dwells on tough economic times Sublette County stands out. In fact, it stands out enough to prompt a visit from ABC News, as the television network visited Pinedale early this week to experience what it’s like in a place where unemployment numbers are some of the lowest in the nation.

“We had seen and read that Sublette County has the lowest unemployment in the nation,” ABC News Producer Alyssa Littoff said. “We’re based in California where unemployment is in double digits.”

After her brief stay in the small mountain town, Littoff said Sublette County residents are fortunate for a number of reasons.

“You have spectacular resources,” she said. “We saw the two giant pools and rock-climbing wall (at the Pinedale Aquatic Center). The people in Pinedale are also very proud of their school system. There are a lot of people who are very proud of where they live.”

ABC News Correspondent Terry McCarthy agreed with Littoff.

“We can see why people are attracted to Pinedale,” McCarthy said. “We’re from Los Angeles where unemployment is 11.2 percent. Five thousand people were laid off just last week in the city. We come out here and find out that Pinedale just recently hired five new teachers. It really shows you the contrast with what you’re able to do when there is a surplus. It just blew me away.”

While Littoff said not everyone is thrilled with energy industry development, she said most everyone agrees that there are at least some positives.

Again, McCarthy agreed.

“It sounds like there was some resistance to the change originally,” he said, speaking of the oil and gas industry becoming a presence in Sublette County. “We recognized some tension, but it’s interesting how the town has come to terms with it over the years.”

While the visit from ABC News lasted less than 48 hours, the television network had an opportunity to meet with a number of local residents including Pinedale Mayor Steve Smith.

“I got a call about three weeks ago letting me know they’d (ABC) be out here,” Smith said.

According to Smith, the purpose of the visit from ABC was to conduct a feel-good story about the town (with an emphasis on low unemployment).

“Originally they wanted to do a story on the fact that the unemployment rate here is the lowest in the country,” he said. “I think they found Pinedale very interesting.”

The mayor had lunch with an ABC News correspondent from the television network Monday and then offered a tour of the town to show the crew what Pinedale has been doing with its money. The tour with the mayor offered a peek at the Pinedale Library, Pinedale Aquatic Center and a number of local businesses, as well as a quick trip on the river.

“The aquatic center is amazing,” McCarthy said, with fascination.

“We discussed what oil and gas has done for the town,” Smith said. “However, we talked about the challenges presented as well.”

Another stop funneled the ABC crew into the Patio Grill where Nancy Osburn was interviewed.

“(ABC was) at the Patio with a local family talking about the economy and how Pinedale seems to be untouched by the national unemployment increases like the rest of the nation,” Osburn said, as her interview was based around good paying wages even outside the gas sector. “They were very impressed by the hourly wages that are seen in Pinedale.”

Littoff said despite the short visit they tried to meet as many people as possible, from those who have lived in Pinedale for just a few months to those who have lived here nearly their entire lives, such as longtime residents Paul and Betty Hagenstein and Doug and Leann Rellstab.

“We just talked to them about their experiences,” Littoff said of the people who were interviewed.

An evening was also spent on-site visiting with EnCana operator Diggs Lewis.

“We spoke with longtime ranchers, people from the oil and gas sector, new people in town…” McCarthy said. “We wanted to speak with a wide range of individuals.”

Littoff, who had never been to Pinedale before, gave her own thoughts on Pinedale, saying it is a beautiful town with an unbelievable natural setting.

“We had a great time,” she said. “People are incredibly lucky to live there.”

Once again, McCarthy agreed with Littoff.

“The people are very friendly and welcoming,” he said. “We met a couple who had just moved to Pinedale from Indiana and it was amazing to hear how easy it has been for them to fit in. We had a very positive experience.”

Littoff said she wasn’t certain when the piece would air on ABC News.

It depends on a number of variables, she said.

But there’s a reason a television network such as ABC took the time and effort to plan a visit to Sublette County.

Whether it’s low unemployment rates, a beautiful natural setting, oil and gas development or just the peace and quite of the mountains, Pinedale has proven to be an attraction for many.

“Nationally Pinedale is really starting to be on the map,” Smith said.

Having an established television network film in Sublette County proves Smith’s point.

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