Conservation, Housing, and Funding Other Strategic Priorities

Chris Agnew
3 min readNov 5, 2020

Last week I shared the balance we are striking at TSS right now in managing the urgent and leading towards the important. Employee housing security is an important topic for any employer in Teton County, WY, one TSS has worked on for years, and requires continued focus even with COVID and reduced volumes. While not necessarily urgent right now, this topic is massively important as housing security contributes to strong employee retention and recruitment and any progress requires sustained attention over years.

Earlier this week I shared steps TSS is taking to sell our 641 acres south of highway 22 surrounding Indian Springs Ranch. With the closure of the Teton Research Institute in 2015 our mission no longer relies on owning this property. Conservation of the land exists regardless of the owner (due to a Jackson Hole Land Trust conservation easement on 640 of the 641 acres). Reliant on these two previous points, we can reallocate capital currently locked up in the land towards future strategic capital projects such as employee housing security, a trail network on our 300 remaining acres of the Jackson Campus, and other priorities.

At the TSS Board meeting in January 2019 (blog post), the Board reviewed housing and campus planning work done in the second half of 2018 with Mithun Architects. Mithun designed the Jackson Campus in the first half of the 2000’s and returned to TSS to review how we’ve settled into our use of the Jackson Campus and to begin master planning the Teton Valley and Wilson Campuses to meet our long term goals.

Seeing some of the ideas they presented is exciting. Through these drawings, we can begin to see some of our goals and needs come to life. The drawings are a synthesis of identified needs and opportunities collected from staff during Mithun visits related to employee housing security, program, and workspace across these three campuses. They are not design plans. They are not an approved path forward. Most importantly, they are not funded and together have a price tag around $30 million.

We anticipate that future strategic priorities, particularly employee housing stability, will be paid for by a mix of philanthropy, financing, and existing capital. This brings us back to our goals around selling the TSS open space property south of highway 22. With ownership of the property no longer core to mission, conservation of the land not being reliant on TSS ownership, and the significant capital locked up in the property — the decision to explore a sale to further our core strategic capital goals was easy.

While these projects don’t move fast and we haven’t sold our open space yet, we have started the initial stages of broadening our view from the urgent of COVID to again include the longer-term important for TSS.