Kanye West’s New Wyoming Yeezy Facility Comes With Some Concerns — but Community Leaders Remain Positive

Kanye West has clearly grown quite fond of Wyoming, having bought two ranches there this year and hosting the release party there for his “Ye” album in May 2018. His most recent investment in the state is the opening of an Adidas-Yeezy sample lab in the city of Cody.

The rapper turned designer’s latest move, however, has made some local businesspeople uneasy.

The plans for the facility, which were approved by the city’s Planning, Zoning, and Adjustment Board on Tuesday, have caused local developers and business owners to approach Cody city planner Todd Stowell with concerns over the amount of property West is occupying.

“Cody has effectively always had a perceived land supply shortage,” Stowell told FN. “If he’s buying up a lot of properties in the city — specifically commercial properties — it’s already a tight market where people have a hard time finding suitable properties for their projects, so it could make that even more difficult for people wanting to do things.”

Stowell continued, “Historically, we’ve had some poor soils that people have avoided because of the additional cost of developing. At least in the community’s mind, those areas are effectively off limits and lack utilities. The few areas that do have utilities and good soils [are in] primarily the east end of town where Kanye is purchasing property, which may affect other developers for what they’d like to do.”

According to city documents, the property located at 119 Road 2AB spans 6.59 acres and features an 11,292-square-foot warehouse. The documents also state a modular 1,056-square-foot structure will be added for a break room, bathrooms and office space. (The property, owned by economic development organization Forward Cody, is the former home of Cody Laboratories, which was shuttered in June.)

Multiple reports state West is looking to hire local talent to work in the facility. And while providing jobs to locals in any community is hardly a bad thing, Stowell said Cody also has an employee shortage aside from its land shortage. According to the United States Census Bureau, an estimated 9,828 people lived in the city as of July 1, 2018.

“A few people in other business are concerned that the available workforce in Cody is somewhat limited, particularly during the summer months,” Stowell said. “In the hotel industry, for example, a lot of hotels have to bring in workers from out of town and even internationally just so they have enough workers in the summer. Cody is primarily a tourist community, so there are some concerns that the labor market won’t be able to respond to the available jobs that are supposedly going to be brought in by Kanye.”

Not everyone in the city, however, shares the concerns of the few locals that have approached Stowell.

James Klessens, CEO of Forward Cody, said the perceived problems are good ones to have.

“The potential shortages of available space and workforce are two problems that every economic developer wants to have because that means you’ve got things going [on] in your economy that are causing those to happen,” Klessens said. “That’s a good thing in my world, and it gives me a challenge to work on workforce and available property.

“Everything is from perspective, and my perspective is that the location of the Adidas-Yeezy headquarters in Cody, Wyo., is a magnificent opportunity for our community to address those issues of available space and workforce. It’s a challenge that I hope we’re up to, [and] we’re going to do everything in our power to rise to the occasion.”

Klessens also applauded the desire expressed by West and his team to potentially hire some of the 135 workers who were left unemployed after the Cody Laboratories closure months earlier.

Despite the property and employment concerns of local developers and business owners, Stowell agrees with Klessens and believes West choosing Cody for his Yeezy sample lab is great for the city.

“Anytime there’s change, people are a little hesitant; there’s a cautiousness about whatever is new. That being said, from an economic development perspective, he’s obviously a great benefit. Even from a publicity standpoint, it’s a great benefit,” Stowell said. “We think Cody is a great place to live. We enjoy it here, and all of this additional attention is letting more people outside of our community know about Cody. And it makes people say, ‘Why is Kanye interested in Cody? What’s special about Cody?’ Then they start looking at Cody and say, ‘It’s a nice place,’ and [they] understand that it makes sense to develop and live here.”

In an email to FN, Adidas said it does not have more information about the Cody facility, but stated that it backs whatever West has planned for Cody.

“We believe in a business model that celebrates bringing our partners’ creative vision to life, which means sometimes exploring new lanes for design and production,” the company said in an email to FN. “While we can’t comment further on this specific topic, we are excited about the future of our partnership with Kanye.”

West and Adidas have delivered several iterations of fan-favorite Yeezy styles throughout 2019, including multiple colorways of the Boost 350 V2, and they’ve introduced new models to the market, such as the Boost 380 and the 700 V3.

On Dec. 5, Adidas North America president Zion Armstrong told FN that there will more “newness” from Yeezy in 2020.

“Are we confident next year with the range of [Yeezy] products? Without a doubt,” Armstrong said. “You’re going to see more newness than you’ve ever seen before. You will see new silhouettes, and you will see us making sure we continue to do that in a sustainable manner. There are multiple new silhouettes coming down the pipeline. There will be freshness and newness coming through at the right volumes.”

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