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"Unlocking the Potential: A Recap of the GOED Conference 2024"

I attended the Governor's Office of Economic Development Conference last week in Sioux Falls. I was excited to attend as it was the perfect venue to learn more about economic development and what is working from other communities in our state.

During the first night, we got to mingle and meet other attendees. I was fortunate enough to meet my counterparts in Watertown. We were able to compare notes and saw that we face many of the same struggles, even in different-sized communities. I look forward to getting to know them better and working together in the future.

The next day started early at 7 AM with a presentation from Larry Rhoden, our Lt. Governor. He spoke about the high influx of new people in our state as well as what makes South Dakota the place to move to.

Our next speaker was Michael Faulkender, an associate dean of master's programs and professor of finance at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland. He is known for his research on executive compensation and the corporate tax practices of multinational firms. He spoke about the struggles that many of us face in our current economic climate. The cost of living, car, and mortgage payments have not increased at the same rates as wages, leaving many Americans struggling to afford the basic items of a successful household. He gave us a quick economics lesson that showed how close we are to a tipping point. This really pointed to our current struggles where the needs are almost exceeding the supply but the ability to invest in creating more supply is not as financially easy as it is at other times in history.

He also touched on the impacts of the generational shift we are experiencing currently. People are not having enough children to replace our current workers. Therefore, we are now facing a laborer shortage instead of a labor shortage. Our past assistance programs are not focused on this need, so we are seeing a lot of struggles as we learn to fill this new gap. Faulkender also touched on the fall-off effect of our assistance programs. There is such a large gap between where people can fit into assistance program parameters, where they max out of the programs, and where the benefit is outweighed by income made. In an example that he gave, a single mother with government assistance was better off with an income of under about $30,000 and this was not offset until she made more than $60,000. If you look at many of our incomes, the vast majority I can think of are between these numbers. This leads many to take jobs below their abilities to enable their financial stability instead of taking the higher-paying job. In my mind, it showcases a large gap in the focus of these programs, the people using them, and the individuals who need them.

After a lot of that heavy information, we had a chance to listen to our Governor Kristi Noem speak and present awards to exemplary communities and individuals in our state.

We then had the opportunity to pick breakout sessions based on our communities' needs and our own focuses. I chose to attend The Power of Downtown Redevelopment, Relaunching MTS, Engaging with Manufacturing, Childcare, and Building Stakeholder Buy-In.

The Downtown Redevelopment breakout was led by counterparts in Dells Rapids, Sturgis, and Centerville. Dell Rapids mentioned their successes with a Facade improvement program much like our improvements program. They all talked about their successes hinging on working with their city and ensuring ordinances and codes were enforced. This is a significant struggle in small communities, so there were many questions and options brought to the table on how to ensure these basics are being followed to create a better community. I hope to learn more about these and how we can use them to improve our communities.

They also touched on how different economic development companies fund themselves. With little money available through grants, many are looking towards partnering with the counties, cities, and industrial groups in their communities to fund their efforts to improve their communities. CCC is funded by the County of Clark, Willow Lake, Clark, and the Clark Industrial Park. This funding provides for one part-time employee to help the communities find grants, connect people, provide gap financing, and generate ideas to improve our communities.

A common conversation I often hear is how we are creating housing and business space in our communities with such limited financial power. Many communities are joining together to create a unified plan to best use the limited resources in their areas to complete the highest priority projects with the most impact for them. They are also looking to create unique solutions to plans like second-story housing, business incubators, and a wide variety of other ideas that I wish I had had the time to talk to each community about.

A huge question I have for everyone is,

What isn't available in Clark?

I feel like this will really help us plan for our future needs as a destination and a sustainable community.

What does Clark County need?

  • Housing

  • Amenities

  • Health Care

  • Activities

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