By Garrick Moritz
The list of accomplishments that Faulkton can take pride in over the last few years would be impressive for a community of any size: A new hospital. A reinvigorated downtown business area. Revitalized infrastructure. Taxable sales in the county up more than 50 percent in four years. Businesses and families moving in.
That all this has happened in just a few years for a community of 735 and a county of 2,300 is enough to make any economic developer’s jaw drop.
How did they do that?!
Well, Faulkton residents could point to a few influential people who got the ball rolling. They’ve also partnered with some quality programs that have helped them along the way.
But the real driver is in plain sight on their website, on their clothing, on their banners, and, most importantly, in their attitude toward their community: In Faulkton, the tagline “We believe in possible!” isn’t just a few peppy motivational words. It’s the engine behind their success.
For Dr. Joel Price, superintendent of Faulkton Area School District and chairman of the Faulkton Area Economic Development Corp., believing that a better future is possible is the obvious choice for rural communities that want to have a future.
“There is no status quo in our state,” Price said. “You are either, as a community, looking to the future with optimism and hope, or you are getting ready to close the doors and move on to a bigger town or city.
“We believe in possible simply due to the fact that while our community has struggled for the last 70 years to maintain the status quo, the work around us changed. We took this on as a challenge to make it better for our children and grandchildren—a community with a future, rather than just a past, and a great place to raise kids, start or continue a business, or simply live in a community that has an eye to the future.”
That the community is fairly united in this vision shows when people gather to work on developing it.
“We’ve had a series of meetings over the past few years and always have over 100 people in attendance,” Price said. “Plus, the people in attendance come away with a new sense of energy and a desire to get involved.”
While other communities might have declared themselves “in survival mode,” without the energy or means to reach beyond the bare necessities, Faulkton was willing to experiment with new ways of doing things. Community members have worked with a variety of organizations to increase their skills and bring resources back to the community. One example is Dakota Rising, an entrepreneurship development program of the statewide nonprofit Dakota Resources, which has proven a success in Faulk County, with eight entrepreneurs participating and taking their businesses to the next level through the program.
“(Dakota Rising) has provided them with the tools necessary and encouraged them to step outside their comfort zone in regard to being an entrepreneur,” said Faulk County Commissioner Roger Dieter. “Those people have enjoyed business successes and have forged a path for others to follow—and they are following.”
That’s perhaps the hidden strategy for building a can-do attitude in a community: Prove you can by getting it done.
“Positive or negative attitudes are very contagious and once established can be difficult to reverse,” Dieter said. “Strong leadership helps to create positive attitudes, and then once the community begins to see visual signs of progress and success stories, it takes a lot of traction away from the naysayers. … Success breeds success and encourages others to take steps they may not have otherwise taken.”