South Dakota’s International Trade Center Receives Presidential “E” Award For Outstanding Export Services Provided

This past Friday, November 5th, the U.S. Department of Commerce awarded Rock Nelson, the Executive Director of South Dakota’s International Trade Center, the 2021 President’s “E” Award for Outstanding Export Service Provider at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. The President’s “E” Award is the highest recognition that any U.S. entity can receive for making a significant contribution to the expansion of U.S. exports.

“South Dakota’s International Trade Center has demonstrated a sustained commitment to export expansion. The “E” Awards Committee was very impressed with South Dakota’s International Trade Center’s delivery of a variety of trade events over the past several years. The organization’s customized client support was also particularly notable. South Dakota’s International Trade Center’s achievements have undoubtedly contributed to national export expansion efforts that support the U.S. economy and create American jobs.” said Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce, Gina Raimondo, in her congratulatory letter announcing its selection as an award recipient.

South Dakota’s International Trade Center, located in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is the statewide provider of export services for small and medium-sized U.S. businesses, including supply chain management, international freight logistics, export consulting, export financing, strategic planning, importing, Foreign Trade Zones, documentation, rules, regulations and compliance – both domestic and foreign and more.

Rock Nelson, its Executive Director, said that “Exporting is crucial to the success of the businesses that we work with. Every day we see the growth of our clients’ businesses, due in large part to exporting. This growth has enabled our clients to add jobs and support their local communities as they expand their bottom line.”

In total, the U.S. Department of Commerce honored 71 U.S. companies and organizations from across the country for their role in strengthening the U.S. economy by sharing American ingenuity outside of our borders. The ceremony was held to jointly recognize awardees from 2021, (32 organizations) and 2020, (39 organizations).

In 1961, President Kennedy signed an executive order reviving the World War II “E” symbol of excellence to honor and provide recognition to America’s exporters. Criteria for the award is based on four years of successive export growth and case studies which demonstrate valuable support to exporters resulting in increased exports for its clients.

U.S. companies are nominated for the “E” Awards through the U.S. Commercial Service, the export promotion arm of the of the Department’s International Trade Administration. With offices in over 100 cities across the United States and in 75 markets around the world, the International Trade Administration is the premier resource for American companies competing in the global marketplace.

For more information about the “E” Awards and the benefits of exporting, visit www.trade.gov.

Introducing…the Sioux Metro Growth Alliance

The next chapter in regional growth is here.

The Lincoln County Economic Development Association and the Minnehaha County Economic Development Association have combined to form Sioux Metro Growth Alliance, an economic development association that will serve the region.

“It’s about telling our story and building brand identity and working together in alliance,” executive director Jesse Fonkert said.

“Our name change and combined organization will help us better serve our communities but also better communicate what we’re all about. Many people thought we worked for the counties, when we are independent, and we support regional economic development.”

The timing for both consolidation and expansion is right, he continued.

“There’s momentum for the Sioux Falls region in general,” Fonkert said. “We’re one of the fastest growing metros in the country, and we need to talk about that more because all our communities play a role in that growth and they’re positioned to help drive it even more.”

The foundation for the Sioux Metro Growth Alliance began three decades ago when mayors of Minnehaha County communities got together with support from business leaders in Sioux Falls and formed the Minnehaha County Economic Development Association in 1991.

It’s about telling our story and building brand identity and working together in alliance.

Jesse Fonkert, SMGA Executive Director

“It just really was building off the success of Sioux Falls and understanding that a regional partnership would give everyone more visibility and more success than trying to go it alone,” said Jeff Eckhoff, who became the association’s executive director a few years later.

“Some of the first months I was on the job, we would have meetings down in Lincoln County talking about the organization and how it might look and operate.”

The Lincoln County Economic Development Association was formed in 1996.

Early successes included facilitating a public-private partnership to develop the Corson Industrial Park. The associations also helped support new and expanding employers in the respective communities from Sioux Steel to Terex and Adams Thermal Systems. It even helped bring a grocery store and bank to Humboldt.

“In the early days, it was all about land, buildings, availability, location, and those things still matter,” Eckhoff said. “But the thing that was really changing as I left is the importance of workforce. It used to be that on the first visit (a company) rarely even talked about workforce, or it was way down on the list. Now, it’s one of the first things you talk about.”

The “people” aspect of the Sioux Falls region has become a point of pride, said Nick Fosheim, who led LCEDA/MCEDA for seven years beginning in 2012.

You’re going to see more of our organization, telling the story of our communities. They’re great places to live, work and invest your time and resources and dreams, and we’re going to do our best to support them and build a strong alliance.

“If you look around the region, there are more people whose job is focused on economic development in their community, and that didn’t exist 10 years ago, even five years ago,” he said. “So I think that’s a sign that we see opportunity and that we know we have to approach it as a team … and we’re putting the strategy behind what we’re doing as an organization.”

The Sioux Metro Growth Alliance is a key piece of that, he added.

“You get these communities talking to each other about their successes, their challenges, some of the questions they have, and they can learn from each other, and they can celebrate with each other.”

The new Sioux Metro also is positioned to reach out to communities in the true metropolitan statistical area, or MSA, which includes McCook and Turner counties.

“We’d love to find ways to include those municipalities and county governments in our future,” Fonkert said. “We’re just looking for ways to serve, and that’s our job. Economic development is about service.”

A nine-person executive board will help guide the combined organization.

Additionally, a membership board allows for greater representation and the election of the leadership board.

“We’re excited to bring in C-suite level leadership board members that have a regional presence to help drive our efforts,” Fonkert said.

“You’re going to see more of our organization, telling the story of our communities. They’re great places to live, work and invest your time and resources and dreams, and we’re going to do our best to support them and build a strong alliance.”

A new website, siouxmetro.com, is in development and will launch this spring.

Jesse Fonkert
in the meantime, reach out to

Jesse Fonkert

Executive Director, Sioux Metro Growth Alliance

Builders Bringing 70 New Home Lots to Valley Springs

A (17 residential lot) development that hadn’t seen action in seven years, and we filled that up.

The plan was that builders Ron and Lori Kuipers would move to Valley Springs, build a house as part of a larger development and call it home.

“That was the intention,” Ron Kuipers acknowledged. “But everything we’ve built has sold.”

So for now, the owners of Homestead Construction are living in what he calls a “shous” – a shed converted into a house – while helping their new community take shape around them.

“When we came five years ago, there was nobody building here,” he said. “That’s either a good thing or a bad thing.”

They quickly found out it was an opportunity waiting to be seized.

They purchased 17 residential lots on the southwest side of town from “a development that hadn’t seen action in seven years, and we filled that up,” Kuipers said. “It was either leave town or keep going.”

They decided to keep going.

Their new 30-acre development, Homestead at Valley View, is just to the south of where they were building, and they hope to build on their success.

“We’ll have about 70 homes,” Kuipers said.

“We decided to start one over the winter, and we’re close to having it done, but that’s the only inventory available, so there’s definitely a need.”

You read that right: It’s the only available home in Valley Springs.

The community of about 760 people as of the 2010 census has grown steadily in recent years, with demand from residents looking to take advantage of more affordable living and a small-town feel within the Brandon Valley School District.

Valley Springs is absolutely a community on the rise

Jesse Fonkert, SMGA Executive Director

“Valley Springs is absolutely a community on the rise,” said Jesse Fonkert, executive director of the Sioux Metro Growth Alliance.

“The investment that Homestead Construction is making to bring much-needed homes to this area is such a win – for them, for residents looking to move in or move up and for overall economic growth of the community.”

Valley Springs “is just a tight-knit, close, friendly community,” Kuipers agreed. “You’re five minutes from Brandon, 15 minutes from the east side of Sioux Falls and about 20 minutes from the west side. It takes you longer to get across Sioux Falls.”

The Kuipers also are setting aside 6 acres of their development for commercial use.

“The intention is to draw a convenience store or Dollar General or something like that,” he said. “And the property is along the highway, so as even more people move in, we think it will be an attractive commercial location.”

Homestead Construction has finished water and sewer infrastructure, and the plan is to build streets and be ready for curb and gutter this spring.

There are 25 lots ready to sell now, ranging from $40,000 to $48,000. There are options for twin homes as well as single family.

“We have one sold, and we’re starting construction in April, so we’ll probably see three houses going up in April because we’re planning a spec house and working on plans with another client to start.”

Buyers can work with any builder, he said. Homes likely will range from $300,000 to $600,000.

“We’ve specialized in the move-up or second home,” Kuipers said.

As for their own home? That’s still in the plan too.

“Builders are always the last ones to get their house. But we do have intentions on building our house this year,” he said. “We’re just enjoying being part of the community and going about it having fun.”

Sioux Metro Growth Alliance Hires Ryan Solberg, Launches New Service

The Board of Directors for Lincoln and Minnehaha County Economic Development Associations (LCEDA/MCEDA) approved a new service at their March board meeting. Starting in May, investor communities will be able to contract with the newly consolidated Sioux Metro Growth Alliance (SMGA) for economic development management services. This new service is designed to compliment the existing support offered by the SMGA and is available for an additional fee for investor communities.

How does this service work? An investor community economic development organization would contract with the SMGA to offer direct economic development management support. The SMGA would offer an economic development specialist to execute a pre-determined scope of services for the contracting entity. The contracting entity (economic development organization) would provide office space in their community for 10-20 hours per week and the SMGA would receive a management fee.

To provide this service, Ryan Solberg will be joining the SMGA as the Economic Development Specialist. As a Mitchell, SD native and Augustana University graduate, Solberg brings unique perspective thanks to past experience in the Planning and Development Services department at the City of Sioux Falls. Solberg most recently worked as a Loan Administrator at Builder Finance in Sioux Falls. The Lennox Area Development Corporation (LADC) has enlisted the SMGA in providing economic development management services. Solberg will work closely with the LADC to help them achieve their organizational goals and execute their economic development strategy.

If your economic development organization is interested in further assistance, contact Jesse Fonkert at jessef@siouxmetro.com for more information about this new, innovative service.

SMGA Website to Launch in June

Sioux Metro Growth Alliance is dedicated to telling the story of each of its investors and we feel this website will help in that effort

Work is well underway on the creation of the SMGA’s FIRST website. SiouxMetro.com will launch this summer as another benefit to SMGA’s investors. Designed for both talent and business attraction, this new portal will have information about available building sites, residential developments, taxes and incentives along with profiles for each community. “We’re excited to build a digital platform to showcase each of our community’s and their asset,” shared Jesse Fonkert, Executive Director. “Sioux Metro Growth Alliance is dedicated to telling the story of each of its investors and we feel this website will help in that effort.” SiouxMetro.com will also be able to handle event registration, post sponsorship information, and share news stories about the metro.

Watch social media for the official launch date!

Partners in Progress Award Winners

The Sioux Metro Growth Alliance has named multiple organizations and individuals winners of its 2020 Partners in Progress Awards. The awards were presented at our annual meeting on February 25, 2021.

Regional Economic Development Champion: Dennis Olson, City of Brandon

This award is given to an individual living in or working in Minnehaha or Lincoln counties who has shown active support for community development through recent or cumulative past service to economic development and community enhancement.

Dennis Olson has an accomplished career in economic development, including a partnership to bring businesses together with public sector partners to create the Corson Industrial Park. His long-term economic philosophy has created hundreds of jobs in the Brandon area, with thousands of dollars of property taxes.

“It was an emotional night for me,” Olson said. “I don’t get very emotional, but it was a surprise. I started out here in 1986, and receiving this award showed me that they – this group of people – appreciate what I do.”

He’s also a willing mentor, helping others understand what goes into economic development and thinking regionally in his approach.

“I’m a firm believer that you build communities by providing primary jobs – that’s what economic development does, and that’s one of the reasons why we’ve been as successful as we have in Brandon,” Olson said. “We have the amenities of the big community in Sioux Falls right next door, but we still feel like small-town South Dakota.”

Business Partner of the Year: Corson Development Association

The Business Partner of the Year is awarded to a company, enterprise or entrepreneur doing business in the Sioux Falls metro area that has shown outstanding community development support or regional economic development partnership activity during the preceding year.

The Corson Development Association, comprised of private and quasi-governmental organizations, helped support the creation of 451 primary jobs and nearly $30 million in taxable property.

Together, the  partners contributed almost $1 million in the early 2000s to purchase and develop 117 acres in the metro area. Thanks to a strong economy and willing partners, this group was able to close out the partnership late in 2020.

After creating jobs and tax base, the goal was to return 1.5 times the initial investment to each of the shareholders, which it did.

The partners that helped make this group possible are:

  • Alliance Communications
  • Brandon Development Foundation
  • The First National Bank in Sioux Falls
  • Great Western Bank
  • Sioux Valley Energy
  • Sioux Falls Development Foundation
  • Minnehaha County Economic Development Association

Community Innovation: Canton

This title is awarded to an investor member community that has demonstrated new ideas in community development or achieved a community goal through partnership and community effort.

The community of Canton identified a need for housing years ago and came together to help address it.

“The city of Canton is essentially out of space when it comes to incoming residents seeking either single-family or multifamily homes,” said Scott Larson, CEO and Senior Director of the Sanford Canton-Inwood Medical Center in Canton. “The 62 acres of housing development that we’ve worked on has been nearly 30 years in the making, has taken an enormous team effort, and will be a big win for the Canton community as a whole.”

The local economic development group worked with a health foundation to incorporate parks and green space into a preliminary plan for a housing development that would address the shortage in the community and create active, healthy lifestyles.

This economic development group was able to secure an option on the property owned by the health foundation, which then allowed it to start pitching the site to interested parties.

After a competitive selection process, one developer, ISG out of Sioux Falls, was chosen, and dirt should be moving in 2021 or 2022 for Canton’s next single-family and multifamily housing development.

“The progressive leaders of the Canton Economic Development Corporation recognized they needed to take a different approach to addressing their housing needs, and with the help of ISG, we have a thorough analysis of several prospective housing development options throughout the community,” said Steve Watson, Development Strategist at ISG. “Canton’s recent Partners in Progress Award is a recognition of the Canton Economic Development Corporation’s (CEDC) willingness to roll up their sleeves, use their resources, and tackle a challenge that will help propel the community forward.”

And according to Watson, the economic growth of the Sioux Falls metro area will only continue. “The Sioux Falls Metro is the economic engine in the tri-state area. The region will continue its strong growth, and I believe has already reached an inflexion point – which may be truly unprecedented growth for the next several years. Communities in the Metro that are willing to make the necessary investments in their infrastructure to capture this growth potential, like Canton, will rise to the top.”

A New Season for Economic Development

SMGA Director’s Report

Our work has always been collaborative, and it will continue to be so under the leadership of our board and our investors.

The temperatures have us thinking spring around the office, and nothing says ‘spring’ in South Dakota quite like a flurry of building permits and the advent of the construction season! Business inquiries to expand or to relocate, including those fielded by our office and by others in the four-county radius, continue to climb, and that’s certainly reflected in the tally of building permits in the Sioux Falls MSA; per a March report in SiouxFalls.Business, new commercial activity in and around the metro area amounts to nearly triple ($39.6 million) the amount just one year ago ($14 million). In other words, the spring season is a great time to embark upon new journeys and start new projects here in the greater Sioux Falls region.

We’re also experiencing feelings of renewed energy and dedication as we embark on a new season for the Sioux Metro Growth Alliance. While we continue to be proud of our legacy and our work in the communities that comprise Lincoln and Minnehaha counties, it’s my honor to lead our former organizations, LCEDA and MCEDA, as we merge our efforts to develop and improve the economy in and around the greater Sioux Falls region. Our work has always been collaborative, and it will continue to be so under the leadership of our board and our investors.

I’d be remiss not to thank former executive directors Jeff Eckhoff and Nick Fosheim, as well as the work of all of our board members as well as our respective LCEDA and MCEDA board presidents, Eric Pauli (Xcel Energy) and Mike Wendland (Grant Park Capital). Thank you all for your support and excitement, which has bolstered our efforts to continue to serve our communities as we merge.

And while we eagerly welcome this new season in our work, what remains the same is our commitment to economic development across the metro area. Please do think of us as you look forward and plant seeds of growth for your business; we’re excited to help you to accomplish your goals.

Jesse Fonkert
Story by

Jesse Fonkert

Executive Director, Sioux Metro Growth Alliance

Community Pride Drives Regional Development

Partnership is an essential element in the success of the Minnehaha and Lincoln County Economic Development Associations. Working together—combining our strengths to achieve growth in both counties—has served our regional economy well for almost three decades. But equally important are the unique elements that make each community, each utility, and each company different from every other.

Community pride is an essential part of that equation, expressed in community celebrations and—especially this year—the support of local businesses. The ownership and civic pride felt by citizen volunteers and elected officials keep our communities growing. We share good ideas with other communities in our region, and find new ways to express the strong sense of place that makes each community a great place to live.

Community pride is an essential part of that equation, expressed in community celebrations and the support of local businesses.

Just as diversity makes companies and states stronger, more innovative, and more successful, having distinctive communities makes regional economic development thrive. When corporate executives visit our region to explore locations for a business expansion, we can show them a range of options, with individual industrial park sites in a variety of different communities. Meeting with people who have invested in their hometowns and feel a strong sense of local pride encourages new companies to make that investment, too.

Communities that are distinct from each other also provide choices for the new families that move to our region each year. When new people explore our communities, they find local retail options, civic organizations, and consistently excellent schools that give them strong reasons to make a home here.

As we plan the future of regional economic development, we can depend on community pride in each LCEDA and MCEDA community. We celebrate the values we share, the ways in which we are similar, and the distinct qualities which make each community in our region unique—and how those things prepare us for even stronger future economic growth.

Jesse Fonkert
Story by:

Jesse Fonkert

LCEDA/MCEDA Executive Director