Kanye West appears to be getting more comfortable with his Yeezy label in Cody, Wyo.
A proposal by Adidas-Yeezy for a prototype design production facility is expected to be approved by Cody’s zoning and planning board Tuesday, said Cody city planner Todd Stowell. He said, “It’s relatively straightforward. The zoning is proper. They’re providing pretty much everything they need to.”
Establishing the proposed Adidas/Yeezy Cody Sample Lab would involve the conversion of a 11,300-square-foot warehouse and the construction of an adjacent temporary 1,056-square-foot modular facility. The proposed sample lab is expected to house between 10 and 20 employees initially and may be operable by the end of next month.
There are 10 parties in play for various aspects of the design and development of the sample lab facility, which has not yet been finalized. City officials declined to estimate the investment planned for the sample lab. The property is owned by Cody Forward, an economic development organization that is set up as a nonprofit that is separate from the city.
There are about 30 people — primarily out-of-towners — working in Cody for Adidas-Yeezy. Forward Cody’s chief executive officer James Klessman said, “They are part of a planning and design group that are working with the Yeezy-Adidas project, and are also dealing with some real estate Mr. West has acquired in the area. They have a facility in town that they are all based at.”
Noting how local people are expected to be hired by Yeezy, Klessens said, “I’m in a town of 10,000. You have buildings in New York that have more people than our town has. To have a company like this in our community will make a significant impact. It’s going to be a very positive thing from an employment standpoint.”
Located on the border of Yellowstone National Park, Cody is a seasonal tourism community that generally attracts 800,000 visitors each summer. “We have a regular fleet of tourists that travel through us to Yellowstone. It’s part of why “Buffalo Bill” Cody built this town — the tourism aspect, the first national park in America, the first national forest is right here. There are a lot of reasons why this is an appealing area for people to come visit,” Klessens said.
Asked about the potential for local manufacturing for Yeezy, Klessens said, “I think there are conversations about that. That’s certainly something that is on their mind. It will take some very sharp pencils to make that work, because we’re not exactly on a major thoroughfare. We are not on an interstate highway. We don’t have a seaport here. So, it takes a little bit of thinking to make sure you have production efficiencies that allow you to be profitable in that endeavor. We have manufacturing here. We’re making everything from firearms to aerospace products and leather goods. There are a number of things that are really niche markets, higher-margin markets. We have some manufacturing here that does quite well.”
The Grammy-winning West is unquestionably committed to the area. The entrepreneur reportedly spent $14 million on Monster Lake Ranch, a 9,000-acre spread near Cody, and nearly $15 million on Bighorn Mountain Ranch, a 6,713-acre property outside of Greybull, Wyo.
A spokeswoman for West declined comment this morning.
An Adidas spokesman said via e-mail Monday, “Unfortunately we don’t have any more information to share about Adidas x Kanye West’s operations in Wyoming. Like Zion [Armstrong] mentioned, 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.”
While we can’t comment further on this specific topic, “we are excited about the future of our partnership with Kanye,” the spokesman said.
As the sole owner of Yeezy, West previously ran the business from Calabasas, Calif., but now Wyoming is said to be its base. In an interview with WWD earlier this month, Adidas president of North America Zion Armstrong confirmed that design and development for Yeezy products had begun in Wyoming and that the team was “still in the making.” He declined to comment about whether manufacturing would be done there as well.
With last year’s sales exceeding $890 million and this year’s sales well beyond that, West is said to be interviewing potential talent and consultants for Yeezy in Wyoming. He is also said to be exploring building an infrastructure along the lines of luxury houses like LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
As for how far away time-wise the manufacturing piece could potentially be, Klessens said he really didn’t know. “I know this prototyping center that they are doing in the building that we own is really to bring a design team, and to work through some of those pieces. As the economic development guy for Cody, I would dearly love it if they would go full-scale manufacturing. Those are conversations yet to be had. Right now there are a lot of moving pieces within the Kanye West Enterprises and again I’m not privy to a lot of them. I am simply a help, when asked, and I get out of the way, when I’m not. They’ve got a lot of very capable people in the organization and I’ve got a lot of other projects that I work on as well,” he said.
Forward Cody could provide workforce training assistance and assist with any machinery that may be needed for Yeezy production, according to Forward Cody member Fred Bronnenberg, whose employer Groathouse Construction is the general contractor on the Adidas/Yeezy Sample Lab project. He said, “There are programs through the state of Wyoming that can be accessed to assist with job transition and job training. If people need a certain set of skills, there are assistances through the state of Wyoming that can be accessed through Forward Cody to assist in that.”
As for reports of potentially using the incarcerated or former prisoners to be involved with Yeezy production, and whether Forward Cody could be part of training those individuals, Bronnenberg said, “I don’t the know answer to that. I’ve heard very limited discussion about that, but I have not heard anything confirmed on that either.”
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