Colorado is Pretty, but South Dakota is Home.
“Now that I’m back in South Dakota, I’m reminded of all the little things l love about it,” says Ellie Naasz, who recently moved back to her home state from Colorado after accepting a position as the Program Impact and Support Coordinator at Dakota Resources.
“It’s so easy to connect with people. I can talk to someone for five minutes and by the end of the conversation, I will find out they know my husband or went to school with my dad or used to live in my hometown,” she says. “No one knew me in Colorado. It just feels good to be connected again.”
Like many young professionals who move out of South Dakota to experience “something bigger,” Ellie realized she missed many things about home. While living in Fort Collins she discovered a higher cost of living and struggled with the distance between Fort Collins, her family in Jefferson and her husband’s family in Winner.
“I didn’t like missing out on things. Any vacation time we had was spent coming back to South Dakota to visit family,” she says. “Now that we live here and can be involved all the time, we actually have more opportunities to travel and explore the country. It’s something we always said we wanted to do and now we can.”
Ellie and her husband began thinking about moving back while Ellie was pursuing a master’s degree at Colorado State University. She learned about Dakota Resources from a video promoting RuralX, and contacted Dakota Resources President Joe Bartmann to let him know she would be interested in a job. A year later, she was offered the position of Program Impact and Support Coordinator, and she and her husband moved to Sioux Falls in August.
“I was impressed by the mission of Dakota Resources and I loved the concept of RuralX,” she says. “I like working for an organization designed to help rural people stay happy and thriving.”
After four months in her new position, Ellie finds unexpected perks with a company that strives to think progressively.
“I feel empowered here,” she says. “No one is looking over my shoulder, and I am not accountable to a timeclock. I’m trusted to get my work done, but if I need to leave early for something, it’s not even a question. My opinions are respected and my ideas are valued. I feel comfortable being myself here.”
As more and more millennials make up America’s workforce (75% by 2025 according to Pew Research Center) this kind of work-life balance is the key to recruiting and retaining good employees—especially in rural communities. In the past year, three staff members moved to South Dakota for a job with Dakota Resources, citing flexibility, job fulfillment and the ability to make an impact as reasons for applying.
“For me, there are so many advantages to living here,” says Ellie. “I know I’m where I am supposed to be.”