by Anna Jauhola
Some South Dakota communities have decided that community development work sometimes goes better when they look beyond their own borders. Several economic development groups are the result of smaller entities banding together to do economic development across a wider area.
“Every community has concerns that they are limited in what they can do alone,” said Scott Amundson, executive director of Glacial Lakes Area Development in Britton, S.D. “But they join forces and combine their visions. … It’s amazing what a small, motivated group can do.”
Dozens of dedicated residents in the greater Marshall County area, working together as GLAD, serve the communities of Britton, Langford, Veblen, Eden and Lake City in northeast South Dakota. Last year, 103 local, regional and out-of-state investors in Langford, a town of 300, created 35 new jobs at Langford Main Street Center. Those jobs are in a full-service restaurant and lounge, Grow South Dakota satellite office, hair salon and chiropractic office.
“They redeveloped old lots into something viable,” Amundson said. “It’s been a long time since Langford had a full service cafe.”
GLAD funding sources include Marshall County and each of the GLAD town governments, as well as corporate contributions, grant dollars and personal donations.
Exploring innovative financing options
David Lambert, executive director of Dakota Heartland Development Association, serves a six-county region and echoes Amundson’s sentiments.
“I help provide tools and advice to businesses and communities,” he said.
His office is based in Mitchell, S.D., and funded by money from each community it serves. The program began in 2007, with a three-year grant from Avera Health.
Lambert works with community leaders in his area to better promote development of available land and commercial space. Tax increment financing districts have been valuable tools in developing and expanding businesses in Parkston and Corsica.
The Douglas County Commission used a TIF to further develop the sewer and road systems in Corsica’s industrial park, and private businesses in Parkston have expanded with the help of TIFs, bringing to town at least 27 new jobs, and new tax streams.
Working in such a vast region filled mostly with small communities, Lambert said his goal is to fuel as much collaboration as possible.
“I hope to paint the broader picture for them,” he said. “I hope they don’t go head-to-head, but rather celebrate what town gets a large deal and see what opportunities come for other towns.”
Merging home and industry
Through Yankton Area Progressive Growth, Yankton, S.D., recently has made a concerted effort to work on workforce development throughout southeastern South Dakota.
Since mid-2015, Rita Nelson, workforce development coordinator, has focused on creating collaborative workforce developments in Yankton and its seven-county region, acknowledging the unique opportunities each community brings to the equation.
“The communities themselves have many strengths … in attracting individuals to move home,” she said. “As a region, we may have the careers available to them, so it’s finding the place to live where you love, and then finding career opportunities that you want. We’re working together to offer that.”
Through the Greater Yankton Living website, YAPG features communities from the nine counties, highlighting restaurants, employment opportunities and events. The site also features the stories of individuals who have made a life there, whether they have lived there their entire lives, or moved in as adults.
“We’re inviting individuals to explore opportunities to grow—both personally and professionally—on our site,” Nelson said.