by Jody Moritz, Faulk Development Corp.
Faulkton area residents who have been involved in a regional community enhancement effort recently gathered for a six-hour followup meeting.
This program is sponsored through a Bush Foundation grant, which was initiated by the Faulkton Area Development Board. Faulk County is one of two groups in the three-state region of South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota to be awarded grant money from the Bush Foundation; the other is Prairie Vision of the Brown County area. The board members serve on focus groups with others from the various Faulk County communities who have signed on.
Through the process, which began with addressing community goals and needs last September and has continued with periodic meetings since, five focus groups have been formed.
They are entrepreneurship (Dakota Rising), housing (Home Address), leadership, quality of life and financial.
At the January meeting, area residents agreed to serve on at least one of the focus groups depending on where they had an interest. Some people are involved in multiple groups.
Housing and the Home Address project: The housing group is diving into the very complex combination of issues that have developed over time. Current increased demand has resulted in the lack of adequate housing.
At this point, Faulk County has been one of four communities in the state to be accepted into the Home Address project. The primary benefit is that these communities receive some very significant assistance in the form of what they refer to as coaches. A coach has been assigned to each community, and Faulk County has their attention and assistance for an 18-month period. The coach helps facilitate the process up to the point where the community is ready to initiate a project. Faulk County’s coach, Joe Bartman, meets with the group approximately once a month. There have been periodic educational and informational webinars with topics pertaining to rural economic development as well.
The findings of a housing needs assessment study were presented at a April 1 meeting. The study contained some general statistical information regarding population trends, population age, financial abilities of those seeking housing, along with some more specific suggestions on what type of housing projects are recommended.
According to group member Roger Deiter, hopes are that with the addition of these findings, this group will be poised to determine what the initial project that best fits the community needs to be and how to start the process to make it happen.
Leadership: The major focus of the leadership group has been on how to best navigate the generational transition, and how to begin to make the next generation realize the importance of being involved in community activities. The need to develop leaders may not be as strong as the need to get them involved. Leaders normally emerge once they are engaged and realize the importance of involvement.
The group feels the need to break down some barriers that have always existed between the younger and the older generations, and make the younger age group feel as if they have some say in how our community is shaping itself for the future.
The leadership group met one time with a small group of four to five young couples in the 25-40 age group. That age group obviously has a whole different set of dynamics regarding how they communicate, and they have to juggle working schedules and families and such.
Committee members feel that it was very clear that it is not that they do not care, but that they just do not have time nor do they care to spend a bunch of time in meetings with little or no focus. Their message was: tell us what to do, give us a project and we will do what we can.
Quality of Life: The quality of life group encompasses many things. Basically, what are the primary needs of a small community to enhance the quality of life to a point that will attract both retirees and younger people?
Their first issue is a technology gap within the community. A set of “Lunch and Learn” sessions are being scheduled at the Faulk County Library to address a part of this issue.
People from Faulk County are more committed, energized and ready to continue the journey than ever before. People who have not previously attended one of the community meetings are welcome and encouraged to attend a focus group meeting in which you might be interested.
Contact Stacy Hadrick at 605-347-1195 or email Stacy.Hadrick@gmail.com or Linda Bartholomew at 598-4312 to sign up and get more information