What’s possible: Quarterly gatherings help economic developers help one another
Guest Blogger: Anna Jauhola, Dakotafire Freelance Writer
Read more at http://dakotafire.net
Illustration: Jason Uphoff
Economic development in the Dakotas often extends beyond the boundaries of a single community, either for financial or geographical reasons, but sometimes even those groups benefit from further collaboration.
Approximately 15 years ago, a group of economic development leaders came together for the first meeting of the Northeast Regional Developers group. They have met quarterly ever since, to share ideas and best practices.
“A portion of the meeting is a regional round table,” said Lori Finnesand, CEO of GROW South Dakota and organizer of the group. “It’s a time to share what their community may need or want and ask for ideas on the project or where to get money” for local projects.
Finnesand said many communities that didn’t have paid economic development directors have become interested in funding positions since the group formed.
By implementing paid economic development positions, communities in the northeast portion of South Dakota have incorporated new ideas to enhance their towns. Directors who have attended the quarterly meetings have brought back new ideas, including a “first impressions tour” in some communities. “They invite two to four outside people to the community and give them a check sheet for when they go around town,” Finnesand said. “They give their first impression, suggest what’s eye appealing and what the community would want to change.”
New people join the Northeast Regional Developers often, Finnesand said, including leaders from Northern State University and Lake Area Technical College. Development professionals from Miller, Mobridge, Viborg, Sioux Falls, Centerville and DeSmet have also begun attending the gathering because of its value.
Finnesand said. “This group has really found a niche by building relationships around the quarterly meeting.”