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‘Go west, young man’ acquires new meaning

Towns like Gillette, Wyo., were settled during America's first westward migration. Today, it's a magnet for a new sort of pioneer, reports NBC's Kevin Tibbles.

The old frontier spirit that built this country is alive and well in Wyoming. Towns like Gillette were settled during America's first westward migration. Today, it's a magnet for a new sort of pioneer.

"The wind is a lot stronger out here," says Ed Lambert. "There's no trees to stop it."

But not as strong as the cold wind of unemployment chilling Lambert's hometown of Flint, Mich. He came west to build houses.

"My wife being pregnant, starting a new family, needed work, needed money," says Lambert as he ticks off the reasons for moving. "Wyoming said they were booming, so I took a chance and drove out here."

With it's energy industry booming, Wyoming has more jobs than workers.

"The bottom line is we have dried up the labor pool in Wyoming and the surrounding states around here," says Jerry Williams, a recruiter for Wyoming Machinery Co. "We have taken and grabbed everyone we can."

When Wyoming held a job fair in Flint, 1,500 people turned up.

One of them, 39-year-old Ford worker Ty Spencer, came seeking a secure future for his family.

"A week on, a week laid off, a week working, a week laid off," Spencer recalls his routine.

As he and wife Teri pour over a dog-eared Wyoming map, he plans to take Ford's $100,000 buyout.

"If a sinking ship is throwing us a life vest, do we take it and go out there and try to make a better life?" he asks.

Spencer has already been offered work with the Union Pacific railroad, giving new meaning to the notion, "Go west, young man."

"Except here, it's go west middle-aged man!" jokes Teri Spencer.

Still, the Spencers are willing to take a chance.

"We have to look at this as an adventure and something that's going to be positive," says Teri. "Otherwise, why would we go?"

It's an adventure Wyoming is hoping thousands more skilled laborers will explore.