Collaborative strategies for career services and local chamber of commerce

When it comes to workforce development, a strategy for success is forging a collaborative relationship with businesses, educational partners, and economic development organizations.

Sioux Falls is a great community for partnerships like this, which is why our Vice President of Talent and Workforce Development, Denise Guzzetta, recently contributed to a publication with the National Career Development Association.

Co-authored with Billie Streufert, Assistant Vice Provost of Student Success at Augustana University, the article shares the importance of such relationships and the strategies we’ve used to help our businesses fill their talent pipeline.

Denise Guzzetta
Want to take part in our workforce programs? Contact:

Denise Guzzetta

Vice President of Talent and Workforce Development, Sioux Falls Development Foundation

SFDF supports existing company Furniture Mart with 300,000 sq. ft. expansion

By the end of April, the plan is that the equivalent of 14 miles of racking will be filling up with sofas, mattresses and other home furnishings at Furniture Mart USA’s expanded warehouse and distribution center.

For now, they’re putting on finishing touches in preparation for a certificate of occupancy that will allow the new state-of-the-art facility to begin operations.

Ultimately, the expansion will add 200,000 square feet of warehouse space and 100,000 square feet of retail, doubling the size of the Sioux Falls-based company’s headquarters.

“This is a complex, precise project,” said Troy Eichmann, Furniture Mart’s chief operating officer.

It’s also a project ready to meet the market at what the company believes is an opportune time.

“We believe if we can have the product on hand, we can beat the competition, so we invest not only in the building but the product itself with sophisticated predictive models trying to forecast what the customer is going to buy,” Eichmann said. “They’re right more than they’re wrong.”

Much of the product that will fill these racks already is on order, he added.

“What’s interesting is manufacturers, since COVID hit, are moving their operations back to North America, so many are coming to the U.S. or Mexico from China and Vietnam,” Eichmann said.

If you think trying to coordinate it all – the design, the ordering, the construction – takes a massive effort, you’re right. And in the case of the Furniture Mart project, it all came together thanks to partners who helped navigate a path to development.

“Business expansion takes time,” said Mike Gray, director of business retention and expansion for the Sioux Falls Development Foundation.

“We first heard about potential plans for this project several years ago, so it’s very exciting to see it get built and become a top five industry building permit in our community for 2021. That puts this project in the same conversation as investments made by FedEx, Lineage Logistics and Avera for last year, and it shows how Sioux Falls is a growing market for warehousing and distribution.”

But the building’s location along 60th Street North east of Minnesota Avenue brought some hurdles, given its proximity to the Big Sioux River and necessary flood control.

“That brought certain regulatory requirements,” Gray said. “We identified those would have an impact on the expansion and timelines, and helped make connections with federal partners, plus coordinated local and state programs available to assist with the expansion.”

With guidance from U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds’ office and support from the state of South Dakota, Furniture Mart was able to complete the necessary requirements through the Army Corps of Engineers in record time.

“That really made a difference in getting this project done,” Eichmann said. “It was a 10-month process, but I’m told it easily could have been 15 months or more. This could have been a complicated and daunting process, but both at the local, state and federal level there was sincere interest in working with us.”

While some might think of the Development Foundation as bringing in new business, its efforts to help retain and expand existing business are just as robust.

“I like to tell businesses if they’re thinking of expansion, especially if it’s in the next five years, we want to talk to them,” Gray said. “Expanding businesses often will work with a banker, an engineering firm, architects, commercial brokers, but having the Development Foundation as a member of the team is one more layer to help reduce risk and potentially identify other opportunities for your business that come with expansion and investment.”

The organization brings a different perspective to the conversation, he added.

“Viewing projects through an economic development lens is what we do every day, and we recognize things you and others might not be aware of, whether it’s the opportunity for a low-interest loan, workforce training assistance or just another connection we can make that you weren’t originally thinking about.”

The relationship paid dividends for Furniture Mart, Eichmann said.

“Mike Gray definitely was empowered to be effective in helping us and really helped shepherd us through the process,” he said. “We absolutely appreciate the relationship and are happy to deliver the project to the community.”

The ripple effect of such an investment can be big.

In the case of Furniture Mart’s project, “we did as much locally as we could,” Eichmann said. “It was important to us. It was important to Bill Hinks, our founder and chairman, and when we looked at construction bids side by side, if there was any way to keep the business local, we did it.”

The expansion also will add 50 jobs over time, he estimated.

“What we find is in markets where we compete for talent, we’re winning because of our family culture, our active participation in the business and the fact that we recognize it can be hard work and we pay accordingly,” Eichmann said.

Furniture Mart will wrap up its retail additions later this year, adding Ashley HomeStore and Furniture Mart locations there and ultimately creating one of the largest buildings in Sioux Falls.

“This company really is a great example of what we like to see in a company’s economic development journey in Sioux Falls,” Gray added.

“Bill Hinks was an entrepreneur in the 1970s, saw the opportunity and had a vision and now has grown to be among the largest furniture distributors in America. They employ hundreds of people and have grown with Sioux Falls, increasing the tax base and employee wages while donating millions to nonprofits. They’re homegrown, family-owned and attached to the community, which is exactly the sort of business we want to support.”

Is your business looking to expand in Sioux Falls? Contact Mike Gray at 605-595-4243 or

Talent Thursday with Mariah Burroughs

Talent Thursday is a weekly social media livestream event that features a professional in the Sioux Falls area who speaks about why Sioux Falls is the perfect place to live out their career.

For Thursday, March 24, we caught up with Mariah Burroughs of ISG, a multi-disciplinary architecture, engineering, environmental, and planning firm with an office in Sioux Falls. As a talent engagement specialist with ISG, Mariah shared about ISG’s organizational culture and their strategy for attracting and engaging talent.

Talent Thursday is held weekly on Thursdays at 3 p.m. CST on the Sioux Falls Development Foundation’s Facebook page. Follow here:


President’s Report: The Road Ahead

By: Bob Mundt, President/CEO

Workforce and talent development, land development and housing are key focus areas for the Sioux Falls Development Foundation in 2022.  These three areas define our road ahead and create our work plan as we continue to lead the economic development efforts of the region.

While we will continue to grow our current programs targeted at recruiting young talent — including Talent Draft, Talent Tours, Talent Thursdays and Talent Rebound; we will add to the mix with a new and expanded INTERN Sioux Falls initiative targeting internships at local companies with a goal of attracting over 1,000 interns to the region annually.  In addition, we will expand the WORK Sioux Falls electronic marketing campaign to metropolitan areas around the Midwest to attract more workers to the region by connecting them directly with company employment pages.  With the support from the State, we will initiate a new UPSKILL Sioux Falls program to assist existing firms with upskilling current employees into higher paying positions within their company, filling critical positions.

We’ll continue working with our middle schools in the STEM initiatives and our high schools with the Career Connections program connecting juniors and seniors with local jobs and advanced training opportunities.  The recently announced Health Sciences Clinical Simulation Center on the campus of Southeast Tech will substantially increase the number of health care graduates available for our medical community.

Grading and developing our industrial parks will result in more build ready property and create the critical infrastructure we need to land new and expanding companies.  Additionally, we will be exploring the expansion of our parks to include additional land to serve the needs of the future.

Working with the State of South Dakota, the City of Sioux Falls and our housing partners, we will explore our role in addressing the career housing shortage in the region.  With the critical need for housing as it relates to the job creation and workforce development initiatives of the Foundation, it is imperative that we find solutions to build more affordable housing.  This may include redevelopment initiatives or partnership arrangements with the City, the Development Foundation and private sector developers.

The road ahead is being paved today, literally and figuratively, and the Sioux Falls Development Foundation is proud to be a leader in this growth.  We appreciate your support and look forward to a great 2022.

Business leaders join Development Foundation Board

The Sioux Falls Development Foundation added five local business leaders to the organization’s board of directors. Elected through a vote of the membership, board members began their terms of service on January 1, 2022.

Newly elected members are Clint Ackerman, Signature Companies, Randy Knecht, Journey Group, Dave Link, Dakota State University, Karla Santi, Blend Interactive and Al Spencer, Parks Ltd.

Ackerman is the owner of Signature Companies LLC,  a diversified company involved with land development and the construction of single-family homes, condominiums, townhouses, villas, office buildings, and multifamily commu­nities. Since the company began in 1997, he has guided the construction and development of over 5,000 units. Signature Companies LLC has developed over 2000 acres of property.  Ackerman is a licensed South Dakota real estate broker.

Knecht has been involved in the construction industry for more than 25 years, joining Journey Group in 1994. Serving as President & CEO, he leads an outstanding group of dedicated and talented construction professionals. Duties also include developing and maintaining client relationships and overseeing overall corporate risk strategy.  Prior to being appointed President and CEO, Randy served as CFO from 1994 – 2010.

Link has more than three decades of experience in strategy, planning and financial operations, previously serving as senior executive vice president and chief strategy officer for Sanford Health.  He served in numerous leadership positions and launched the Sanford Initiatives—a series of innovative global health care concepts. He oversaw Sanford Health Plan, Sanford Foundation and Sanford Research. Under his leadership, the initial Sanford Clinic was created as well as the development of Sanford World Clinics.  Currently, Link serves as an appointed program director in the President’s Office at Dakota State University. In this role, he leads the strategy, development, operational and financial plans for the DSU Rising Initiative encompassing the development of a new research and development programs and facilities.

Santi is CEO and founding partner of Blend Interactive, a firm that guides teams through complicated web and content problems. She is an active member of the business community, currently serving on the board of directors for Startup Sioux Falls, where she aims to meet the changing needs of the entrepreneurial community. Santi has served on the Greater Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and the Chamber’s Business Leadership Council. An active mentor in our community, she strives to encourage young women to explore STEM programs and pursue careers in technology.

Spencer’s journey of business ownership spans 35 years, but he is most proud to have owned and operated Dakotaland Homes, the region’s premier sales center for manufactured homes. Not only is he a proud business owner, but he’s also helped to pass laws or fight against legislation that would have negative impacts on the industry or consumers in South Dakota. In addition, he’s volunteered with numerous state and national trade organizations, as well as non-profits in the Sioux Falls community.

SFDF elects 2022 executive committee

The Board of Directors of the Sioux Falls Development Foundation elected Kurt Loudenback, Grand Prairie Foods, chairman of the board for 2022, with Steve Kolbeck, Xcel Energy, as chair elect; Ryan Boschee, Great Western Bank, as treasurer; and Kent Cutler, Cutler Law Firm, as secretary. Pat Costello, Schoeneman’s, completes the executive committee as past chairman.


Membership Renewal Underway

Strong support from our members has been the “foundation” of our organization for decades as we continue to carry out our mission of improving our regional economy.  Thanks to your financial support, the Sioux Falls Development Foundation has led the way in creating one of the most vibrant, growing economies in the nation.

2022 brings a renewed emphasis on talent attraction, retention and workforce development; business retention assistance; and property tax and quality job growth.  With Sioux Falls’ business climate attracting expanding and relocating companies we must continue to build our workforce, increase our marketing efforts and be an even stronger advocate for the economic prosperity of our region and we can’t do it without you!

Along with March Madness came March Membership – the start of our 2022 membership renewal efforts.  Membership billing will continue over the next few months as renewal dates come up.

This year, our membership mailing includes information outlining the purpose, function and assistance provided by the Development Foundation. The publication is available online.

We invite you to review the information and renew your support of our efforts.  If your organization is not yet a member, we invite you to contact us.

Thanks for your financial support and investment in the economic future of our area.


Investing in infrastructure

As we get closer to spring, we will begin to see an abundance of activity in both Foundation Park and Sioux Empire Development Park VIII West.  The lifeblood of any industrial park is infrastructure.  This includes graded sites, roads, water, sewer, utilities, and fiber connectivity.  To keep up with the brisk demand and growth of Sioux Falls its’ paramount to stay one step ahead by providing build ready sites.

The Sioux Falls Development Foundation has been in the land development business going back 50 years.  Most of that activity has taken place North of downtown and around the airport.  As the community continued to grow, the Foundation acquired land on the outskirts of the community.  Foundation Park is located at the northwest quadrant of I-29 & I-90, whereas Sioux Empire Development Park VIII is located near 60th Street North just east of I-229.

Foundation Park is the largest industrial park developed by the Foundation to date.  In total it includes 900 acres and is served by BNSF rail.  In just a handful of years Foundation Park has attracted large tenants in Amazon, FedEx, Lineage Logistics and CJ Foods.  In total there has been 375 acres sold to date, which includes nine tenants.

As the southern portion of Foundation Park continues to fill, the primary focus for 2022 will be providing infrastructure north of the tracks.  This will include a three phased grading plan that was bid and awarded to Riley Brothers.  This mass grading plan will include 1.6 million cubic yards opening 270 acres of build ready sites.  There will also be a bid going out to contractors in the spring to provide, roads, water, sewer, utilities, and fiber.  All the underground work will be complete by summer/fall of 2022.  The roads are planned to be paved in the spring/summer of 2023.

Moving over to the east side of Sioux Falls we have Sioux Empire Development Park VIII West.  Most of the land in this industrial park runs adjacent to and east of I-229 between 60th Street North and Benson Road.  This large parcel of land represents 152 acres.  A mass grading plan was developed and bid last fall with Runge Enterprises being awarded the bid.  Grading for this project will begin right away this spring and will be complete by mid-summer.  To provide access to all this land the Development Foundation will be installing Bahnson Avenue.  This stretch of Bahnson will run north and south from 60th Street North to Benson Road.  Bid earlier this year and awarded to Runge Enterprises, paving is scheduled to be wrap-up by October.

Both projects in Foundation Park and Sioux Empire Development Park VIII West represent sizeable investments.  However, they represent tracks of land that are becoming more in demand.  As the Sioux Falls population has exceeded 200,000 and the MSA creeps closer to 300,000, it’s crucial to have larger tracts of land that have the necessary infrastructure and are plug and play build ready. Our pipeline is full, and we expect to see positive growth and more activity in both of these parks in the coming years.

Chairman’s Report: The Next Phase

By: Kurt Loudenback, President – Grand Prairie Foods 2022 & Chair of the Board – Sioux Falls Development Foundation

As Sioux Falls and the region continue to grow and experience record setting numbers in key areas, we recognize the changes and challenges this creates.  While City leadership works to respond to what this growth means to future policy, the Development Foundation is working to identify the next phase of development as it relates to planned sustainable growth within our region.

There is little doubt Foundation Park is accomplishing what our past leadership had planned.  And in that vein, I would like to extend a special thank you to Pat Costello, our past Chair of the Board, for his leadership throughout 2021.  His past economic development experience and direction was invaluable and allowed the Board and staff to make critical and tough decisions to set us up for what comes next.  We have tremendous momentum, and we will capitalize on that momentum.

New and expanding firms are finding their home in Foundation Park; substantially adding to the tax base and the quality job growth we see today.  Creating nearly 2,500 new jobs and millions of dollars in new taxes, the tenants in Foundation Park and the Sioux Empire Development Parks are adding to the diverse mix of businesses calling Sioux Falls home.

As a Board, we have spent time looking ahead to the next phase of development for the Foundation.  We know that talent, workforce housing, childcare, and continuous improvement of our quality of life are critical to sustain our controlled growth.  With the successful conclusion of our Forward Sioux Falls campaign last fall, we have allocated the resources necessary to address these issues.

Expanded talent and workforce recruitment and development will continue to assist our business community in filling their talent pipeline.  We are exploring our role in the development of workforce housing options while working with our partners to find a solution to childcare that will allow more people to rejoin the workforce.  In addition, we are working to identify additional land for the next phase of industrial development.  We are working on all these within the resource constraints of our organization, and in cooperation and coordination with the City of Sioux Falls and regional partners.

It is an honor for me to serve as the 2022 Chair of the Sioux Falls Development Foundation as we chart a course for the next phase of our development.  I look forward to working with our members, our partners and our city leaders to continue to build this great City.  Thanks for your membership, your partnership and your support.  Here’s to a great 2022.

Talent Thursday with Maddy Roberts

For Talent Thursday on March 17, 2022, we sat down with Maddy Roberts, an HR Generalist at Midwestern Mechanical, a company based in Sioux Falls offering plumbing, heating, air conditioning, and fire protection services. She shares about her career journey and the need for attracting workforce to the skilled trades.


Powered by:


Forward Sioux Falls logo


Forward Sioux Falls is a unique, innovative program designed to grow and improve the Sioux Falls region. Created through a joint venture between the Greater Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce and the Sioux Falls Development Foundation, we work to outline strategic initiatives to grow jobs, businesses and quality of life.

SFDF Tailgate at the Summit 2022

In celebration of the 2022 Summit League Basketball Tournaments, the Sioux Falls Development Foundation took the opportunity to connect with college students from around the upper Midwest as they cheered on their schools. The “Tailgate at the Summit” event reached hundreds of these students with the message that Sioux Falls is a great place to live, work, and grow. Watch this video to see a recap of the event!


Powered by:


Forward Sioux Falls logo


Forward Sioux Falls is a unique, innovative program designed to grow and improve the Sioux Falls region. Created through a joint venture between the Greater Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce and the Sioux Falls Development Foundation, we work to outline strategic initiatives to grow jobs, businesses and quality of life.

After move from Virginia, world-class athlete, specialized doctor are making Sioux Falls home

As Zack and Val Jensen drove across the country from Washington to their home in Virginia, the exit for Sioux Falls and the beginning of a world hockey championship happened to align at the same time.

So the Jensens pulled off the interstate, found a Buffalo Wild Wings and spent the night in Sioux Falls.

Before they hit the road again, they visited Bread & Circus Sandwich Kitchen downtown and took a brief look around the city.

“We visited the Falls and drove around and thought it was a cool city,” Val said.

Little did they know, they’d be back.

Months later, a recruiter reached out to Zack, a doctor who specializes in osteopathic neuromusculoskeletal medicine.

“Have you ever heard of Sioux Falls?” the recruiter asked.

It seemed meant to be.

They moved here last summer, and Zack has started seeing patients at the newly built Allure Health in south Sioux Falls.

“I thought Dr. Jeremy Storm had a really good vision for the clinic,” he said. “I tend to be more lifestyle-focused, and the opportunity to join a physician-owned group instead of working for a health system was appealing.”

Zack, 44, grew up in California and joined the U.S. Air Force Academy – a career that brought him to Italy, Texas, South Carolina and Arizona before he went to medical school, did residency in Kentucky and ended up in working in Virginia, where he met Val as a master’s student at Liberty University.

Her journey is even more incredible – and timely.

She grew up in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on the border with Russia. She began playing hockey at age 6, playing “seven years at a high level with boys” and had an opportunity to come to the U.S. for to play at 13, until there was a problem with her visa.

“So I had to change sports,” she said. “My brother was really into boxing, so I decided to try that.”

Three months later, she was a national champion in her class. She spent six years on the Ukraine national boxing team, winning three medals in 2015 at the World Goju-Ryu Karate Championship in full contact and even qualifying for the 2016 Rio Olympics before an injury requiring surgery sidelined her.

“I switched back to hockey because I really missed it,” she said. “I said if I’m not going to come back now, I’ll never try to pursue my dreams, and I ended up playing pro hockey. I played in Russia for a year, Canada for a year and then committed to Liberty University to play college hockey, and that’s how I ended up coming to the U.S.”

At age 24, she’s continuing to pursue her hockey dreams. She commutes from Sioux Falls to the Twin Cities multiple times a month to play for a team in the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association, playing alongside Olympians and others at the top of the sport.

“I drive four hours there and four hours back, and it’s crazy, but it’s the only way I can do it and keep playing hockey because Sioux Falls doesn’t have it yet and Minneapolis is pretty big on hockey.”

She is becoming connected to the local hockey community, though, and is excited to help it evolve.

“I’ve started to coach, so it’s great, and Sioux Falls is growing bigger every year, and I’m excited to see how it will explode here,” she said.

She’s even using her expertise in the sport to support her home country, where her mother, brother and many friends still live.

“I’m on the phone with them every other day,” she said. “My mom is in a safer spot, and my brother is on the border with Romania helping families and people move out from hot zones, so he’s engaged in a community that helps people, and I try to help from here as much as I can through skill session fundraisers.”

While in Ukraine, she attended law school before coming to the U.S. and worked with the local government in Kharkiv on various projects.

“We brought some changes to the law and were focused on how to make my city a bigger and better place for youth to live and how I would develop sports in the city,” she said. “It’s so painful to see because I grew up there and sort of helped to build that city. I did projects with those kids, and now they’re bombing those kids, so it’s been rough.”

She hopes to bring similar efforts to Sioux Falls.

“I’m excited to get involved in Sioux Falls to help build an even bigger sport community here,” she said. “I think it’s a really great town. I really enjoy the community here. There are a lot of great young people who are starting their business and a lot of opportunity to grow your business, and I think it’s going to be great to be in a smaller town but have the ability to grow it bigger.”

Her husband agreed.

“It’s a top city for entrepreneurship and growth, which is something we were looking for,” he said. “I really like the people I’ve worked with so far. And we’re getting to know a lot of people.”

He plans to serve in the South Dakota Air National Guard, and they both enjoy hiking, hunting and fishing nearby.

“We just couldn’t be more happy to welcome the Jensens to Sioux Falls,” said Denise Guzzetta, vice president of talent and workforce development for the Sioux Falls Development Foundation.

“They have highlighted so many of the reasons that make this community attractive to those at all career stages and backgrounds. This is an incredible place for medical professions, entrepreneurs and people with a passion for sports and becoming involved. We can’t wait to see this couple continue to make their mark here.”

Talent Thursday with Nick Burns

Talent Thursday is a weekly social media livestream event that features a professional in the Sioux Falls area who speaks about why Sioux Falls is the perfect place to live out their career, connect with their community, and be a part of causes they care about.

For Thursday, February 24, we caught up with University of Sioux Falls student, Nickolas Burns. Nick shares about his career journey and also gives us a look at the ways he’s generated income during college, including his current role as Business Development Manager for Deffenbaugh Homes.

Talent Thursday is held weekly on Thursdays at 3 p.m. CST on the Sioux Falls Development Foundation’s Facebook page. Follow here:

Sioux Falls: 2022’s most affordable place to live & work in the US

When it comes to picking a place to live, one of the most important factors is affordability. For that reason, we’re excited to share that Sioux Falls tops the list of most affordable places to live and work in the U.S. for 2022! The ranking was compiled by GoodHire using census data, and ranked cities using the following criteria:

  1. Wage Growth (20% weight)
  2. Unemployment Rate (10% weight)
  3. Job Growth (20% weight)
  4. Percentage of Jobs Open (10% weight)
  5. Renter Affordability (15% weight)
  6. Homeowner Affordability (15% weight)
  7. Real Per Capita Personal Income (10% weight)

Sioux Falls MSA ranked 8th in economic strength

POLICOM specializes in studying the dynamics of local economies and addresses the condition of an economy from the viewpoint of its impact upon the “standard of living” of the people who live and work in an area. The highest ranked areas have had rapid, consistent growth in both size and quality for an extended period. The lowest ranked areas have been in decline. The formulas used to determine economic strength measure how the economy has behaved, not what has caused it to perform.

In their 2022 study, POLICOM, ranked Sioux Falls 8th best out of 384 Metropolitan Statistical Areas for our economic strength.