Connecting off court: Workforce programs draw students during Summit League games

In between cheering on their teams at the recent Summit League Basketball Championships, college students from every school in the tournament connected with work opportunities in Sioux Falls.

Here’s an inside look at how the Sioux Falls Development Foundation connected with them off the court.

Summit League 2023

Denise Guzzetta
Want to be involved in next year’s event? Contact:

Denise Guzzetta

Vice President of Talent & Workforce Development

Following strong year for workforce development, Sioux Falls Development Foundation to build on successful programs

The high school student who walks into a business for the first time and walks out with a career interest.

The college student who discovers Sioux Falls as an appealing city to live and finds an internship that leads to a first job.

The adult who lands a promotion thanks to upskilling for an in-demand occupation.

They’re all examples of those served through an in-depth, strategic workforce development approach through the Sioux Falls Development Foundation that’s reaching those at multiple career stages nationwide.

“2022 has been a huge year for us. Since 2019, we’ve turned pilot programs into really mature processes. When I started, there was a goal of helping people, but we needed a broader strategy,” said Denise Guzzetta, vice president of talent and workforce development. “Our program continued to grow even with COVID as our strategical tactics allowed us to step into a digital, social strategy like never before, and we’re really reaching people.”

That’s also creating measurable results. For instance, in 2022, more than 22,000 people had a direct workforce connection, participating in one of the Sioux Falls Development Foundation’s 13 talent and workforce programs.

In the Career Connections program, 87 percent of seniors participating went on to further their education after graduation, including 11 Build Dakota scholars.

career connections program

The program, which immerses high schoolers seeking career direction in participating businesses, has generated growing interest from schools, students and businesses.

“During the spring and fall, we had more than 800 kids come through Career Connections, and that was a significant increase from our previous year’s pilot program,” Guzzetta said. “As we look at how to efficiently and effectively move people into the workforce, our greatest opportunity is people we have right here. This is a way to invest in them, remove barriers, address challenges and do so in partnership.”

This year, the program will add a certificate option, “so we’re influencing skilled workforce and getting people into education, so they can have a viable sustainable career whatever their situation,” Guzzetta said. “Now, they’re climbing and accelerating, and in many cases thriving.”

career connections program

Connecting businesses with college students also is an enhanced focus for the Sioux Falls Development Foundation. In 2022, the foundation hired its first talent development coordinator, Claire Herbst, as part of building “a comprehensive offering for internships,” Guzzetta said.

“We’re looking at how we can serve smaller to midsized organizations that needed help sourcing talent, and how do we help them engage that talent and offer an experience in return to help them build a consistent pipeline.”

Through other programs, “we’ve helped businesses work through how to select the right candidate with the right skills and then engage them effectively and build a culture where they don’t want to leave,” she continued. “We’ll continue that approach, and then we’ll leverage Claire and her skills to actively engage on college campuses and make sure students know about the variety of opportunities our businesses are offering.”

For those already in the workforce, the Sioux Falls Development Foundation also is helping focus on building needed skills. The new Upskill Sioux Falls program helped 109 workers earn a commercial driver’s license last year in partnership with Southeast Technical College.

“We started it as construction season was ramping up, and we knew the community wanted us to find a way to train efficiently for those who needed a CDL,” Guzzetta said. “Southeast Tech developed a great way to train people, and they dedicated resources and equipment and expertise, and that’s something we’ll continue to build on.”

semi trucks parked in a line

This year, Upskill Sioux Falls will add a focus on technical skills.

“Seventy-five percent of us in the workforce are going to continually need to retrain on technology, so this summer we will offer a program in that area where we know businesses need help and we can have an effect,” Guzzetta said.

By the numbers, it’s clear the workforce strategies employed by the Development Foundation are gaining traction.

For instance, in 2022, there were 304 relationships created with post-secondary educational partners, providing career advice and guidance to early career professionals – up from 252 in 2021.

More than 800 high school and college students completed job shadows or internships supported by Development Foundation programs in 2022, nearly double the number in 2021.

And more than 9 million digital impressions were created through recruitment and engagement campaigns designed to draw interest in Sioux Falls and its career opportunities – up from 2.8 million in 2021.

“Add to that our ongoing high-touch efforts, including Your Future STEM classroom engagement, our Talent Thursday live interview series, our popular online content profiling newcomers to the community and our successful outreach during the Summit League basketball tournament, and you get a sense for the comprehensive approach we take to workforce development,” Guzzetta said.

“We know we are looking at generational change in terms of how people engage, so we’re very committed to meeting them where they’re at with content and experience that connect. We’re excited to build on so many of these successful strategies.”

To connect, learn more

Join the Sioux Falls Development Foundation’s Recruitment Council – a group for any who want to further connect and advance workforce solutions in the business community.

Monthly education sessions offer cutting-edge information on emerging workforce themes, culminating in the annual WIN in Workforce Summit in the fall.

“We have so much interest that often the sessions are virtual, but that also makes it cost-efficient and able to fit your work life so you can invest in yourself and your organization without taking a lot of time away from work,” Guzzetta said.

The next Workforce Recruitment Council event will be held virtually from 10 to 11 a.m. Feb. 28 and will focus on the top three trends to know in order to remain competitive to attract and retain top talent.

Click here to register for this free event.

Nebraska couple moves to Sioux Falls for careers but praises city for inclusiveness

Add Amie Martens and her fiance, Chuck, to the growing number of people who moved to Sioux Falls for a job.

In their case, it was two jobs – both at Hy-Vee. Chuck is a commercial baker, and Amie is the general manager of Wahlburgers, the restaurant inside Hy-Vee.

“Our first interview was here in Sioux Falls, and we took it,” she said.

Hy-Vee Wahlburgers

That was last summer, months after she joined Hy-Vee in Nebraska following a career that included everything from call center roles to trucking.

“I’d been to Sioux Falls a number of times trucking – I’ve been to all but three states,” Martens said. “And living here has been great.”

From the start, their employer and the community have stepped up, she said. At one point, when they struggled to find housing after one opportunity fell through, “Hy-Vee actually took care of us until we were able to find an apartment suitable for our family,” she said.

Nebraska Couple moves to Sioux Falls

“We have a kayak, and one of the managers at Hy-Vee said we could store it in their garage, and at work I have a great group of employees.”

The couple represents a growing number of new Sioux Falls residents. The city’s population estimates reflect about 14,000 new residents in the past two years. Data from First Dakota Title compiled by the Sioux Falls Development Foundation offers additional insight.

A sampling of change of addresses shows more than 100 new residents from the Phoenix metro area, 65 from two counties in the Los Angeles area, 41 from the Las Vegas metro area, about the same amount from the Seattle area, Colorado Springs and the Chicago area.

Regionally, new residents have come from the Twin Cities, southwest Minnesota, Sioux City, northwest Iowa, Omaha, Fargo, Des Moines and Lincoln, Nebraska – in that order of volume.

“Our experience has been overwhelmingly positive,” Martens said. “It’s completely different than Omaha and Lincoln. Those are college towns, and the political environment feels different. This has more of a hometown feel. When I’ve reached out to the community online about things to do, they were great. Part of my job involves hosting fundraisers, and people gave me ideas above and beyond what I expected. Everyone has been extremely welcoming.”

Nebraska Couple moves to Sioux Falls

As a person who lives with autism, she said she finds that especially powerful.

“I’m very open about how I communicate a little differently,” she said. “My employees, my co-workers and the community has been overwhelmingly accepting of that. I’m not shy about it. But everyone has been so loving and welcoming, it’s been amazing.”

They now have an apartment in central Sioux Falls with a rent she said would be twice as much where she used to live in Nebraska. Chuck’s 8-year-old daughter has found a good fit in school, she said, “and we’ve seen so much cool stuff downtown. We love the cotton candy store. We love our neighborhood. It’s quiet and within walking distance to so much, at least two or three parks.”

The family’s experience illustrates the broader trend the Development Foundation identified, said Denise Guzzetta, vice president of talent and workforce development.

“People move for so many reasons, but careers are definitely a driver, and it’s wonderful to see how this family has found a fit with one of our largest employers,” she said. “Amie is absolutely right that this is an incredibly welcoming and inclusive community, and I think that’s why we’ve seen people embrace living here despite moving from such a variety of places nationwide.”

Ready to learn more about carving your own path in Sioux Falls? Visit, or reach out to

Sioux Falls grad finds quick path to marketing world with early ‘Career Connection’

In a few short months, Blake Gullickson will be ready to start his first full-time job, putting his anticipated marketing degree from Southeast Technical College to use.

The path to get there started while he was a student at New Tech High School, class of 2021, trying to figure out his future.

Blake Gullickson

“I remember every week we would go to a new business, and they would tell us about their business and what they do,” he said. “I thought it was extremely valuable. It helped me decide what I wanted to do going forward.”

Gullickson is one of thousands of students who have participated in the Career Connections program, organized by the Sioux Falls Development Foundation. It exposes them to multiple career opportunities in the Sioux Falls area and allows them to take a deeper dive into one organization through weekly visits.

In Gullickson’s case, that was First Premier Bank, where he “spent a lot of Friday mornings.”

First PREMIER Bank

Already enrolled in marketing classes through the dual-credit program at the CTE Academy, his advisory team felt Premier would offer a good way to hone his interest in the field.

“I had a lot of good experiences with them,” Gullickson said. “And I know multiple classmates who went through the program chose their fields or college plans because of influences from the program and industries represented there.”

Blake Gullickson

That’s the goal of the program, which continues to build participation, said Denise Guzzetta, vice president of talent and workforce development for the Sioux Falls Development Foundation.

“We’re thrilled to hear Blake and his classmates found this valuable in determining their education and career plans,” she said. “For many of these students, Career Connections provides a first look into businesses and careers they didn’t know existed.”

Career Connections also has resulted in 11 Build Dakota scholars so far – students taking advantage of this game-changing opportunity for a full-ride scholarship as they pursue in-demand occupations.

“The exposure this program provides is critical,” Guzzetta said. “It helps find their natural inclinations and interests and then aligns them with opportunities: training, higher education, internships, mentors and ultimately career paths.”

For Gullickson, the next steps include a February job fair where he hopes to secure an internship as he pursues full-time work.

“I’ve really enjoyed my time at Southeast Tech,” he added. “My time in Career Connections and the CTE Academy led me here, and it was very useful for me. I’m keeping my options open going forward.”

To learn more about Career Connections, click below or email

Career Connections Program

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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.

Colorado family grows aquarium business with move to Sioux Falls

You wouldn’t think a love for the ocean would lead Jon and Robyn Johnson to Sioux Falls.

But it did.

Jon Johnson, 32, and his wife, Robyn, 29, were living in Colorado when she was offered a remote-work position as a sign language interpreter. They could move to either Madison, Wisconsin, or Sioux Falls. Robyn’s family is from Lakeville, Minnesota, and Sioux Falls seemed like the perfect location. Jon was able to get a position with Oak Ridge Nursery in Brandon, and they moved to town.

Jon and Robyn Johnson move to Sioux Falls, SD

Part of the appeal of Sioux Falls was its location to the interstates and his desire to grow his business, Ocean Outfitters, which sells everything from snails and seahorses to clown fish and coral. They sell locally and plan to ship soon.

Jon and Robyn Johnson move to Sioux Falls, SD

This is where the ocean comes in.

“We go and travel to all these reef shows, which are like farmers markets for fish and coral, and they have these huge shows, like every hobby does,” Jon said. “I want to put one here and invite vendors.”

The Johnsons operate their business out of their house – the main-floor den, to be exact. The walls are lined with saltwater tanks, and Jon painstakingly grows coral. It’s a mesmerizing and precise operation, full of waving plants and sea creatures in every color you can imagine.

Jon and Robyn Johnson move to Sioux Falls, SD

“There aren’t a lot of people who do that here, and the city is expanding so rapidly, and so many people are moving here,” Jon said.

It’s a chance for him to take a lifelong love and turn it into a dream business, all while living in a place where they can raise their 4-month-old daughter, Savannah, surrounded by a community they’ve come to appreciate.

Jon and Robyn Johnson move to Sioux Falls, SD

Robyn learned to sign after going to Take Your Daughter to Work Day with her mom. She met a deaf co-worker, who taught her a few signs. “I just loved him,” she said. When she had to choose a language in high school, she chose American Sign Language. She knew quickly she wanted to be an interpreter and received a bachelor’s degree in interpreting from St. Catherine’s University in St. Paul.

But carpal tunnel led her to take a break and accept a job as the softball coach at Brevard College in North Carolina, where she met Jon, who was a groundskeeper after serving seven years in the Army.

“They sent me to work for her, and I’ve been doing it ever since,” Jon jokes. “She gave me a list, and I’m still working on it.”

Eventually, they decided to take their 30-foot camper to the West Coast, living in it for a while.

“I loved it. I would go back and do it again,” Robyn said.

Jon agrees: “I could live in a tiny house.”

Turns out, they only made it as far as Colorado, where the mountains made them want to stay. They bought a house and settled down, and Robyn began working as an interpreter for the school district.

But then, the city started to get to them.

“You can go into the mountains and have these epic views and the Colorado lifestyle, but the city is traffic and stress and dirty and toxic,” Robyn said.

Jon and Robyn Johnson move to Sioux Falls, SD

Plus, Robyn felt like she wanted to do a different kind of interpreting, and that job led them here. She works for Convo interpreting services, which allows her to work from home.

They first looked for a house on the west side of the city and then in Baltic but eventually settled in southeastern Sioux Falls. “We would see people in the yard and reading outside,” Robyn said.

“Some days, I want to go back to the mountains or Tennessee, and then I’m shoveling the back patio in shorts and a hoodie, and I’m like, I’m not going anywhere,” Jon said.

Plus, they like the rate the city is growing, while still keeping a smaller-city feel.

“We got lucky when we bought the house,” Jon said. “They had to sell it, and it needed some love. As soon as we walked in, we loved it. We live in this big, beautiful house and think ‘we get to live here.’ We walk around the neighborhood, and these kids are so nice and so respectful.”

Jon and Robyn Johnson move to Sioux Falls, SD

Robyn agrees.

“When we moved in, it was just starting to be winter. As I got pregnant and walked the dogs, everyone saw our journey and my growing belly and having Savannah here, and we got to hear their stories.”

The family’s own story reflects what a number of newcomers say about Sioux Falls, said Denise Guzzetta, vice president of talent and workforce development for the Sioux Falls Development Foundation.

“Sioux Falls is extremely welcoming to small-business owners, remote workers and young families, and the Johnsons are experiencing all three,” she said. “And as they grow their business, the central location in Sioux Falls combined with the state’s business-friendly tax environment are going to be a total win-win for these entrepreneurs.”

Jon said that kind of community is exactly what they wanted.

They laugh about when they first came to South Dakota. They were at a restaurant, and the server offered ranch – and extra ranch – with their wings and pickles.

“We were like: ‘What did you just offer? Ranch? We’ll take it and the extra,’” Robyn said.

“I was like, we’re home,” Jon said.

Nice enough to raise a family and start a business.

“I was that weird kid with fish tanks all over his room,” Jon said. “My parents let me have whatever I could fit on my dresser. I did that until I went into the military.”

Jon and Robyn Johnson move to Sioux Falls, SD

His time in the Army put a pause on fish tanks, but one day he suggested to Robyn that they go into a shop.

After 10 minutes in the shop, she was all-in, he said.

Jon especially loves introducing people to the hobby.

“That’s the most fun,” he said. “I grew up landscaping, and I am so used to talking to people. And I love to learn. The ocean is the largest environment on the planet and the least explored. You are taking that and playing God in a place smaller than a bathtub, and you’re trying to control it the same way the ocean controls it.”

Jon and Robyn Johnson move to Sioux Falls, SD

Jon’s favorite are zoanthids. “They look like little flowers, and they’ll grow up the side of things. There’s a never-ending color combination.”

Robyn loves the rock flower. “They are bold and vicious, and they eat the heads off of fishes.”

She has begun a freelance photography business, working with families to hear their stories and capture memories. And, of course, practicing her skills on her own growing family.

It’s all part of making Sioux Falls home. They’ve planted apple trees, built garden beds, know everyone around the block.

“People are like, ‘Why do you live here?’” Jon said. “And we think, you should go live in some other place and come back and see how nice it is here.”

Move from Portland leads couple to career opportunities in Sioux Falls

For many in the restaurant industry, serving diners is a job and not necessarily a career.

That’s not how Maddie Wadman sees it.

“Everybody loves to come to restaurants. Everybody’s happy to be there,” she said.

And, life-changing events happen in restaurants. She has experienced that firsthand, meeting her future husband while working at a rooftop bar in Seattle. They dated long distance before she joined him in the Portland area, initially working in top-tier restaurants before moving into property management and mortgage.

Maddie and Sam Wadman move to sioux falls

Recently married, Wadman and her husband, Sam, moved to Sioux Falls from the Portland area earlier this year. Sam had an offer to transfer to a job in sales for the trucking industry.

He initially turned it down. She told him he needed to reconsider.

“And we got a plane ticket out to South Dakota,” he said. “And first, I was like, yeah, I don’t know, but it just started to materialize better, and it was everything we were looking for. We came out here and liked it a lot and decided to jump ship. Secretly, we wanted to leave the Northwest. We were tired of everything going on and looking for a way out.”

They were attracted by how “it was not too big, not too small, and everybody was really nice,” he continued. “The weather was really nice, and it had a lot of small-town charm we really liked.”

Maddie “was pleasantly surprised with Sioux Falls,” she said. “I thought it would be a lot more rural, but especially on Phillips Avenue, there’s a good amount of boutiques and bars and restaurants. There’s a lot to do. I thought it was going to be a complete 180 from Portland, which is what we were looking for – the traffic was crazy, and it’s so expensive to live there, so I was super pleasantly surprised by Sioux Falls.”

They moved into a downtown loft at The Cascade, “and we absolutely love it. We love that we can walk to places,” Maddie said. “There’s a convenience store right downstairs. There’s a brewery, a pizza place, a pool. It’s awesome.”

Maddie and Sam Wadman move to sioux falls

With the move, Maddie decided “this is my time to dive into the restaurant industry and maybe show Sioux Falls fine dining from what I know on the West Coast,” she said. “It’s a career for a lot of people there, not just a job for when you need extra cash. So I said I’m going to get back into the restaurant industry, it’s what I love, and I think if I can get in with a really good restaurant, I can do this.”

Her first night in Sioux Falls ended up connecting her with that opportunity when the Wadmans went out with one of Sam’s colleagues to R Wine Bar & Kitchen and Maddie met owner Riccardo Tarabelsi. Sam began talking up his wife’s restaurant experience, and Tarabelsi started listening.

When he opened Maribella Ristorante this fall, Maddie was part of the team.

Maribella Ristorante

“Maribella is exactly what I was looking for. It’s amazing,” she said. “We’re so busy; I love it.”

As a server, she’s loving the challenge of convincing diners to expand their horizons and try some of the menu’s lesser-known offerings.

Maribella Ristorante

“In South Dakota, people stick with what they know and like,” she said. “It’s made me work to convince them to try something new, which is one of my favorite parts.”

She’s also taking advantage of her skills as a level one sommelier and hoping to build up to the next level of wine expertise in the new year. On the West Coast, she learned from one of few master sommeliers in the world, and she honed her serving skills at fine restaurants. Eventually, she might even open her own restaurant in Sioux Falls.

“I would love to open a farm-to-table steak restaurant,” she said. “Something that’s extremely sustainable I think would do so well in a state like this where people love meat and potatoes.”

Maddie and Sam Wadman move to sioux falls

The Wadmans’ experience is exactly what others are finding as they discover Sioux Falls.

“It doesn’t surprise me at all how this couple has gotten connected in our community so quickly,” said Denise Guzzetta, vice president of talent and workforce development for the Sioux Falls Development Foundation.

“Trucking and hospitality are two industries where we absolutely want to encourage new talent to discover Sioux Falls in the same way Sam and Maddie have. We’re thrilled they love downtown living and have found friends and hobbies already. And I know if business ownership is in their future that Sioux Falls will be there to support them on their journey.”

In the meantime, the Wadmans are fully embracing their new home.

“It’s really great,” Sam said. “We’ve met a lot of good people, and everybody is really down-to-earth wanting to connect and go out and do things. I golfed in the summer, and there are a ton of good courses in the area, which was surprising to me, and then I got into trap shooting and pheasant hunting, and that’s been awesome. It doesn’t matter what the temperature is. It could be 38 to 46 degrees for six months and raining all year with no sun in the Northwest, and it’s way, way worse. If it’s 19 and sunny, I think you enjoy yourself a lot more.”

Maddie and Sam Wadman move to sioux falls

Maddie has enjoyed exploring the area boutique and cocktail scene and said she can see them building a life here.

“I absolutely love it,” she said. “We were talking the other day and initially had made this our five- or 10-year plan, thinking OK, we’ll live here for maybe a decade or less and then move on to the next thing. But I think this is our forever plan. We absolutely love it here.”

Ready to learn more about carving your own path in Sioux Falls? Visit, or reach out to

Talent Thursday with April Meyerink

Talent Thursday is a weekly social media livestream event that spotlights talent and workforce in the Sioux Falls area by sharing the stories of young professionals in our community.

For Thursday, December 1, 2022, we caught up with April Meyerink, senior business development officer with Black Hills Federal Credit Union. She shared about her career journey so far and why she loves being a part of BHFCU. Learn about current opportunities they have available in Sioux Falls!

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

Talent Thursday


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.

Virginia couple finds career growth, better lifestyle with move to Sioux Falls

Nick Kolb and Sidney Stone agreed: It was time to leave Virginia.

“The cost of living, congestion, traffic, it’s all outrageous,” said Kolb, 29, who was working as an assistant to a dispatcher at UPS balancing delivery routes at the time.

“The weather’s gross too,” added Stone, 27, who began her career as a patient access technician in a hospital and then became a supervisor at UPS. “I cannot put enough emphasis on how terrible it is to step out at 6 a.m. and not breathe because the air is so thick with humidity.”

While they both worked at UPS, they didn’t meet there. That happened thanks to some matchmaking on the part of Stone’s mother, who met Kolb through the fitness center where she worked.

“We both thought something needed to change,” Kolb said. “We hadn’t taken a trip together, and we like to be outdoors kayaking and hiking, so we wanted to go somewhere outdoorsy but not a hot attraction, so I said you’ve got the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore.”

Sidney Stone and Nick Kolb

He was familiar with this part of the country because his dad grew up in Minnesota. And even though the couple was traveling to western South Dakota, the best option was to fly into Sioux Falls and rent a car.

“So I started getting all these ads about Sioux Falls,” Kolb said.

He began reading about the city, its rankings for quality of life and career opportunities, “and I started throwing hints about South Dakota,” he said. “The cost of living is way cheaper. I figured she probably wouldn’t consider it, but since we were going out there anyway, I thought we should see what it has to offer.”

Stone was on board.

“So we decided to take one day of our vacation and drive around Sioux Falls and get a feel for the town and go downtown,” he said. “I had reservations about her liking it, but she really enjoyed it.”

Stone especially liked downtown Sioux Falls.

“And I was very skeptical at first from living on the East Coast,” she said. “But it just felt like home immediately. I can’t really put my finger on it, but there was so much to do and so much that interested us.”

While they headed to the Black Hills for their vacation, Kolb did some online searching and decided to send his resume in for an opening at Howe Inc.

“Within a week, they’d reached out and said they liked my resume and they knew I was in Virginia but would I ever come to Sioux Falls?” he said. “And I said it’s funny you’d ask that because I’m in South Dakota right now.”

Sidney Stone and Nick Kolb

They woke up at 3 a.m. and drove east across the state so he could make the job interview.

“And I woke up the following day with a job offer,” Kolb said. “I looked at Sidney said, ‘We can’t turn this down.’ And she said, ‘Let’s do it.’ So I accepted the offer, and a month later we moved out here in August of 2021.”

He’s now a commercial HVAC installer for Howe, which has helped him with on-the-job training and saw how his process skills from UPS translated to his new role.

“I love it,” he said. “The big change for me was I was used to a very repetitive workday, and now in commercial HVAC, every day is something different, and I look forward to it. I’m going into different businesses all around town and even out of state.”

Stone immediately began finding jobs too, first working in inside sales and then in human resources. She’s now a senior HR manager at Fleet Farm.

Sidney Stone and Nick Kolb

“I love Fleet Farm,” she said. “They gave me a really big opportunity, and they haven’t made me feel like it’s too much on my plate. I have my director’s ear whenever I need it, and when I have important questions, she’s always there for me. Having your boss actually be there, even if it’s virtual, to talk you through things is something I value so much. I love what I do and love the people I work with.”

The couple’s experience is a great example of the career opportunities and lifestyle early-career professionals find in Sioux Falls, said Denise Guzzetta, vice president of talent and workforce development for the Sioux Falls Development Foundation.

“This couple came to Sioux Falls with skills and early work experience, and Sioux Falls has delivered fantastic professional growth and mentoring,” she said. “They’re both going to be able to build their careers and professional networks here for years to come.”

Outside of work, “we’re big foodies, and we’ve discovered Sioux Falls has a great food scene,” Stone said. “And we’ve done The District, which was cool and reminded us of one of the venues in Washington, D.C.”

They’ve also done downtown First Fridays, concerts at Levitt at the Falls and explored Palisades State Park and Valley of the Giants hiking trail at Big Sioux Recreation Area in Brandon.

Sidney Stone and Nick Kolb

“We’ve already gotten a group of friends,” Stone said. “You don’t create friend groups that quickly on the East Coast. It’s just not a cultural norm.”

The same has been true professionally, she added.

“There’s such a great HR community here. In Virginia, the groups felt very exclusive, and here I’ve already joined two HR groups, and I didn’t think I would be able to get a foothold that quickly,” she said. “It’s only been a year, and it’s been a whirlwind. It’s amazing we were able to get this chance just by moving here.”

Ready to learn more about carving your own path in Sioux Falls? Visit, or reach out to

Talent Thursday with Anna Moe

Talent Thursday is a weekly social media livestream event that spotlights talent and workforce in the Sioux Falls area by sharing the stories of young professionals in our community.

For Thursday, October 13, 2022, we caught up with Anna Moe of New York Life. She shares about her journey from Owatonna, MN, to Sioux Falls, and what she loves about living and working here.

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

Talent Thursday


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.

From Alaska to Sioux Falls, move allows childhood friends to reunite in business ownership

Kyle Brown and his childhood friend Matt Ristau were in an RV in Alaska when a business was born.

It was 2020, Ristau had wanted to visit his friend stationed in Alaska to go fishing, “and I said this is the year to do it,” Brown said. “No one is traveling, and you won’t catch COVID in the middle of the ocean.”

The two go back to their days at Roosevelt High School, where they graduated together in 2000, and then went to SDSU together before Ristau transferred to USD and Brown joined the Air Force.

Kyle Brown and Matt Ristau

“The first year in college, Matt and I decided someday we’d own a business together,” Brown said. “We didn’t know what that was going to be.”

Brown went on to live across the country, from California, to Texas twice, Maryland and finally Alaska, where he spent 13 years.

It was while reconnecting in Alaska that Ristau’s background in commercial cleaning led them to their business concept.

“We started talking about how we do commercial cleaning and the service industry in general the right way,” Brown said. “Taking care of employees and providing professional cleaning services.”

Kyle Brown and Matt Ristau

They knew Brown’s military career would allow him to move back in two years, so they set a 2022 launch date – and met it.

RightWay Commercial Cleaning now offers carpet and office cleaning for businesses, events and public facilities.

Kyle Brown and Matt Ristau

“I think the market forces we talked about back in 2020 have only gotten stronger, as far as the importance of having a good, dedicated, professional staff and treating them right,” Ristau said. “We’ve been busy, and we’re looking to get busier, and now that Kyle’s back in town, we’re working on building it all up.”

Brown and his wife, Bethany, moved back with their kids this year.

Brown family

“My wife is from California and Colorado, so I was worried about convincing her South Dakota was the place to go for our forever home, but she loves it,” Brown said. “I was worried I was painting a super-rosy picture from what I remembered, but as soon as we bought our house and moved back this summer, we had people we didn’t even know coming over working on the house and helping mow the lawn and replace sprinklers. Only in South Dakota is that a thing for people you didn’t even know to come help.”

She’s now going back to school to earn a master’s degree, with their kids in high school, middle school and elementary school.

“Our kids are loving it here,” Brown said. “The schools are amazing. Even in a couple weeks, they’ve been happy and adjusting, and we’re not even done unpacking yet.”

brown family

After years of tight military housing, the family is loving its yard, a bonus swimming pool and new puppy.

“They just enjoy having space and everyone being able to spread out and have fun,” Brown said.

“When you live in Alaska, it’s hard to get other places unless you fly, and now we’re in the middle of the country, and we can do Yellowstone, the Black Hills and drive to Denver.”

The family represents a trifecta of reasons why people are moving to and loving Sioux Falls, said Denise Guzzetta, vice president of talent and workforce development for the Sioux Falls Development Foundation.

“Their experience checks so many boxes, from returning to your roots, to growing a business, continuing your education and supporting your family,” she said. “We’re thrilled to see them succeeding already in every way.”

Brown agreed that after a whirlwind of moves, it has been an ideal place to settle.

“Everywhere I’ve lived has something good about it,” he added. “Texas had great food, California was beautiful, Alaska has great hunting and fishing, but the one thing I compared everywhere to and that I missed was the people and sense of community. Nowhere compares to South Dakota when it comes to that.”

To learn more about RightWay Commercial Cleaning, visit

Ready to learn more about carving your own path in Sioux Falls? Visit, or reach out to

‘Culture, Culture, Culture: If you don’t get it right, nothing else matters’ among panels at workforce development event

By the end of 2022, Showplace Cabinetry will have shipped more cabinets in a year than ever — more than 200,000.

“And we have a backlog that will carry us through year-end,” CEO Bill Allen said of production. “We will feel very fortunate to be blessed with a record sales revenue year as well. We now have 720 employee-owners — another record — at Showplace, who work their tails off every day to meet our customers’ demands.”

Showplace Cabinetry

None of that happens without a strong company culture.

On Oct. 26, Allen will speak on a panel addressing workplace culture at the fifth annual WIN in Workforce Summit, which runs from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Sioux Falls Convention Center.

Bill Allen

The topic is “Culture, Culture, Culture: If you don’t get it right, nothing else matters.” And Allen will be joined by Carrie Anderson of Avera, Tara Cox of Wilbur-Ellis and Teri Schmidt of Experience Sioux Falls for a discussion moderated by New York Life’s Anna Moe.

We caught up with Allen for a preview.

You’re speaking on the topic of culture, which is broad and in some cases open to interpretation. How would you describe how you and Showplace view culture? What does that mean to you?

It may be cliche, but the words “family, caring and good people” get used often by employees explaining how they feel about working at Showplace. When we are making decisions that involve employees, we go by the philosophy of treating people how you would like to be treated yourself. Every decision we make, we look at how it will affect our employees whether good or bad. When you respect people, are fair, honest and upfront with them, put yourself in their shoes, then the right decisions are easier to make. Our employees are a big part of our culture; they are always looking out for each other. Employees step up to help someone who is fighting breast cancer, has had a house fire or something as simple as needing a ride to work. It will always be our people that define us. We continually hear “That is why I work at Showplace: It is the people.”

Showplace cabinetry

Culture also can be hard to define, but from your perspective, how would you describe the culture at Showplace?

Culture is a reflection of the way you run the company; it is something that is woven into what you do every day. We have become more self-aware in recent years that culture can feel different to those in the office, in leadership positions, versus those who work on the production floor. That self-awareness drives us to want to ask questions, listen and learn more about how our employees think and feel about things at work. We are a manufacturer. The fact is some days things don’t go well. It’s hard work, we have issues just like everyone does, we can always improve. One thing is for sure, we try to make the work environment we have here the best we possibly can for our employees given the industry we are a part of.

What have you done intentionally to try to cultivate that culture?

Over the years, we have expanded benefits and employee programs, started company traditions and improved our facilities – all of this has become part of our culture. I have a tendency to want to list all those things as important aspects of our culture. Robust employee benefits, “perks” if you will, are necessary and useful to get people through the door, but they don’t always motivate people to stay with a company and do the best job they can. In addition to having nice “perks,” we are spending a great deal of time and effort trying to develop better leaders, foster creativity at all levels and encourage employee involvement.

Showplace cabinetry

I think our leadership team is very approachable, and it starts with me. I feel anyone at Showplace should be able to come up and talk to me about anything work-related. If I can’t answer their question, I’ll find someone who can. The goal is developing a mindset for all employees that they are not just a number here – they are an important part of our operation. One of our senior managers brought up to me that Showplace is really like a second family for a lot of our employees. It is a job, but it is more than that. It is stability in people’s lives, a place where they can contribute daily to something meaningful. When we work together, do our jobs well, we have the ability to produce something people want to buy and grow our company. That success in our work lives can spill over into individual’s personal lives.

Culture also always is evolving. Are there some elements of yours that you’re focused on improving, and how are you doing that?

This is something we talk about often. What was important to employees 10 or 15 years ago may or may not be important to employees today ​or in the next 10 to 15 years. If you are not consciously looking at how to evolve your culture in the workplace, it will come back to bite you in the long run.

worker at showplace cabinetry

We’ve put a focus on improving English language skills, and we actually teach English classes in-house now. We’ve strengthened our new-hire training programs, and we’ve really looked into and tried to simplify our application process, looking at how people conduct job searches today. What are potential employees looking for, how do we match up and making sure we are hitting the sweet spots the best we can. It is a constant process. Our goal is to be an employer of choice in the region. We focus on being forward-thinking, innovative and competitive with the benefits we offer.

What advice would you give to other businesses looking to address or improve their culture?

Every business has a culture whether you want one or not; usually it is a reflection of how you treat your employees. Pay is one thing, but honestly listening to employees and showing them respect, fairness and appreciation will go a long way towards building a better culture. When you have a decision to make regarding employees, ask yourself how you would want to be treated in that situation and then make the decision. We certainly know that our culture isn’t for everyone, and every employee isn’t for us. But we hope the culture we do have attracts the people who are a good fit!

What broader benefit have you found as a business to your intentional focus on culture?

Happier employees! I don’t want to mislead anyone – it is very difficult to find and retain employees in the Sioux Falls metro area. I just read there are over 30,000 open jobs in South Dakota and something like 10,000 people actually looking for jobs. That is a big problem, and Showplace is not immune to the difficulties associated with that. The way we look at it is: How hard would it be to find and keep employees if we weren’t doing any of these things?

worker at showplace cabinetry

Register today

The Sioux Falls Development Foundation is an approved recertification provider for the Society for Human Resource Management, and human resources professionals who attend WIN can earn nine professional development credits.

Tickets are $89 for in-person attendance, which includes lunch and snacks, and $20 for virtual attendance. Group discounts are available. Contact

Talent Thursday with Kate Solberg

Talent Thursday is a weekly social media livestream event that spotlights talent and workforce in the Sioux Falls area by sharing the stories of young professionals in our community.

For Thursday, September 23, 2022, we caught up with Kate Solberg a sales manager with Experience Sioux Falls (formerly the Convention and Visitors Bureau). She shares about her college experience and what led up to her position with Experience Sioux Falls.

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

Talent Thursday


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.

‘Neurological Nomad’ brings insight from leading change at Google to WIN in Workforce Summit

Travis Hahler lives in a world of constant change.

The Webster native and USD graduate – class of 2010 and 2012 – leads global change and transformation for Google, while based in South Dakota.

But Hahler is an entrepreneur, too, who is building his organization, The Neurological Nomad, into a powerhouse resource for businesses looking to drive change with people at the forefront.

Travis Hahler

In just a decade, Hahler has built an impressive resume working with more than 100 companies around the world, including 40 percent of the Fortune 100 list.

On Oct. 26, he will be a keynote speaker at the fifth annual WIN in Workforce Summit, which runs from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Sioux Falls Convention Center.

We caught up with Hahler for a preview.

First, congratulations on your success. What is it about your work that you think has helped you distinguish yourself so early in your career?

Thank you so much. I’m proud of the work I’ve done so far, but I am far from finished.

In terms of distinguishing myself, I think the biggest differentiator has been my perspective and unique point of view. I see a lot of really smart people with singular backgrounds like MBAs, psychology, neuroscience, but having all three creates a fuller view of things that others without that exposure wouldn’t be able to see. That perspective has allowed me to anticipate the needs of employees and leaders, empathize with their experiences, draw incredibly accurate conclusions about their actions and motivations, and be able to articulate all of that to leaders in a language they understand. The piece of all of this that has distinguished me the most is then being able to take that perspective and build tactical plans that seemingly anticipate employee reaction and employee needs while also taking into account the larger environment that the employee is living in at that moment.

What will the theme of your keynote be at the WIN in Workforce Summit?

The theme of the keynote goes hand in hand with the mission of The Neurological Nomad, which is to help today’s leaders leverage neuroscience, neuropsychology and human behavior to design employee-centric organizations and drive transformational change. So what that is going to look like for the WIN in Workforce Summit is first a discussion about neuroscience and the impact that our human physiology has on our behavior, and then we are going to talk about how we leverage that information in business and at our organizations. It’s my goal to help the audience see that neuroscience and behavioral psychology is the bridging point between successfully meeting their business goals and objectives, their workforce goals and objectives, and the desires and goals of their employees.

If I’m a CEO, do I really need to know much about neuroscience?

I think all incredible leaders need to understand people, and there are really two ways that incredible leaders can get to that level of understanding. The typical way a leader learns to understand people is through experience working with them. This is very surface level and built through years of experiences and trial and error. After that, you can probably guess what your organization’s reaction to something will be based on previous reactions over similar situations you’ve seen, or you’ll be able to categorize people’s motivations and ways of working based on other people that you know who are similar or exhibit similar styles. You understand what happens, but you don’t understand why. You can still be a great leader with this type of understanding.

I’m sorry to all the leaders that became great through this method because neuroscience is a shortcut and a multiplier all at the same time. Neuroscience explains the “why” behind people’s behavior. So if you understand neuroscience, you understand people. You’ll be able to do all of the same things I just mentioned in a fraction of the time. What’s even better is that you don’t even need to know someone in order to understand how they will likely react if you understand neuroscience. Understanding neuroscience is a fast track to becoming an incredible leader and understanding people.

Are there some basics that can help me shift my thinking and see an impact with my workforce?

Absolutely, and that is why I do what I do. Neuroscientists don’t publish research that is simple to understand, so I view my job as an interpreter between science and business with regard to neuroscience and behavioral psychology and make it simple. The benefit that you get when learning theory about neuroscience is that it can be both theoretical and experiential at the same time because neuroscience dictates how you react as well as how others react. So, as you learn, you can also reflect on personal experiences and see how neuroscience or neurology influenced that reaction and the reasons you reacted as predicted or the reasons you didn’t.

Travis Hahler

What can neuroscience tell us about what motivates people? Does that directly tie to workforce attraction and retention?

There is a lot out there about motivation and the brain, but I think it’s deeper than that. What neuroscience tells us about humans is that from our humble beginnings, we have sought safety and security. First, it was from the wild, and now it is what most people would call “stability.” Our brain is wired for that. When we think about attraction and retention for employees, the quickest way to get a bad reputation and for your employees to start leaving is by creating an unstable environment in the workplace and triggering your employees to seek stability.

I don’t want to give too much away because we will explore what those trigger points are and ways to overcome them during the keynote, but here is what I will say: This is going to be exceptionally important as our world continues to change at a greater velocity than ever before. Stability will need to shift from the idea that “I’ve been here for many years, and I know it is the same day to day, and that provides me stability” to “I know my leaders and the way that they have taken my well-being and needs into consideration every time we change or transform and that provides me with stability.” It’s incredibly different from what we have traditionally seen for our workforce, and I believe neuroscience is the key to helping our leaders where they need to be for this shift to happen.

What are some of the common or most compelling issues that you’re hearing from the businesses you work with through The Neurological Nomad? Are there any emerging issues?

As I’ve been talking with different organizations and leaders, there are certainly a few things that I am hearing across the board. The first, and this has been for a while, is the rate of change as companies race to embrace digital transformation and prepare their organizations for what is next and their future. Second, employee retention and attraction. Finally, social justice, diversity and employee wellness.

The common string among all of these is how we operate and understand our employees. I think there has been a long time where employers have been promising certain things and failing to execute on those promises, and the Great Resignation was simply the result of a loss of trust in their employer. We need to rebuild that trust and create organizations that put employees first, not just write it on our corporate values on the website. I’m sure this isn’t a shock to you, but neuroscience is a huge part of making that happen.

What’s the most common mistake or oversight you see companies make when it comes to trying to implement change?

I think the biggest oversight I see is that organizations don’t understand their people and their people’s skill sets. This often leads to the organization not realizing the benefits of the change because their people were not prepared to operate in the new environment. I see this with companies that are going through digital transformation journeys a lot.

Often, organizations also try to do too much too fast. This is usually the result of an organization that hasn’t been proactive about advancing or in industries that haven’t been disrupted in a while. The ROI is rarely realized because people are too overwhelmed with change and not given an opportunity to internalize the new ways of working.

There is also usually a major disconnect between what leadership thinks their organization’s culture is and what it actually is and the maturity of that culture. What happens here is that leaders will often leave out critical engagement opportunities during the change process because “that’s just part of our culture” when in reality it’s not or it’s not mature enough yet to lean on it.

The good news is that we are going to talk about all of this during the keynote, and neuroscience has a lot to say in these areas!

What’s the biggest takeaway you hope the Sioux Falls audience has from hearing your keynote?

We have a lot of incredible people here in South Dakota and many great companies that either exist or will exist. My hope is that this will help our business leaders transform their organizations to either become people-centric or improve their people-centricity. I believe this is essential to being able to future-proof our South Dakota organizations and continue to grow, compete nationally and attract more great businesses to our state.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I would add just two things.

First, you are not alone in this journey. Building and growing a people-centric business is tough and complex, but I believe in what neuroscience and psychology have to offer and the ways that it can transform organizations. You’re not going to leave a 60-minute session and have all the answers, and if you need a partner in your journey, reach out to me at The Neurological Nomad.

Second, I’m so honored to be given the opportunity to speak at a South Dakota-based conference. I have spoken at hundreds of conferences and events but never one in South Dakota, so I am really excited to be a part of the WIN in Workforce Summit, and I hope you’ll join me there.

Register today

The Sioux Falls Development Foundation is an approved recertification provider for the Society for Human Resource Management, and human resources professionals who attend WIN can earn nine professional development credits.

Tickets are $89 for in-person attendance, which includes lunch and snacks, and $20 for virtual attendance. Group discounts are available. Contact

To learn more and register, click here.

Talent Thursday with Sidney Stone

Talent Thursday is a weekly social media livestream event that spotlights talent and workforce in the Sioux Falls area by sharing the stories of young professionals in our community.

For Thursday, September 15, 2022, we caught up with Sidney Stone of Fleet Farm! She shared about current opportunities at Fleet Farm, as well as her role in their HR department. Additionally, she shared about her relocation from Virginia to Sioux Falls and what she loves most about the city.

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

Talent Thursday


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.

Want to grow your workforce? Consider changing your approach on college campuses

For at least half the year, Kristin Hoefert-Redlinger and her team at Northwestern Mutual are regular visitors on area college campuses.

But they’re not necessarily sitting at career fairs or staffing information booths.

Instead, they’re in the classroom or meeting with athletic teams, offering workshops on everything from emotional intelligence to networking and branding.

“These are things that benefit students with career readiness and leadership skills,” said Hoefert-Redlinger, Northwestern Mutual’s chief talent officer.

“We speak on campuses to give back, mentor and teach students critical soft-skills, and in turn, many of our top internship candidates find us.”

college campus visit

After sharing information that will benefit the students more broadly, there’s a brief pitch to attend a Northwestern Mutual information session to learn more about what the company offers.

“And then we talk very transparently at our information sessions,” Hoefert-Redlinger said. “We offer a top 10 internship in the country, so we have a strong story to tell.”

She will detail her approach to working with college students on a panel at the fifth annual WIN in Workforce Summit, held from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Oct. 26 at the Sioux Falls Convention Center.

The Summit is organized by the Sioux Falls Development Foundation and supported by Forward Sioux Falls.

Hoefert-Redlinger’s panel, Collegiate Engagement Made Easy, will be part of an overall track around talent attraction and include fellow panelists Jessica Carlson of the University of Sioux Falls and Cal McKeown of LifeScape.

“In so many ways, talent attraction and development begins on college campuses,” said Denise Guzzetta, the Sioux Falls Development Foundation’s vice president of talent and workforce development, who will moderate the panel.

college campus visit

“We’ll share ways the Development Foundation is engaging with college students nationwide and look forward to bringing outstanding insight from our panelists.”

The Northwestern Mutual team regularly visits 16 campuses in South Dakota and northwest Iowa.

“We don’t love bringing someone in as a new college graduate. We prefer to begin that relationship while they’re still in college through an internship because our highest long-term retention is from individuals who have completed an internship with us,” Hoefert-Redlinger said.

“It’s real-life experience. You’re living the life with the mentorship of a financial adviser, so you get to test-drive a career, see if it’s right or wrong, and the risk on both sides is limited. And even interns who don’t stay with us long-term become our best brand advocates. They send us referrals and become our clients.”

There have been other lessons learned, too, from building relationships with younger students to the advantage athletes sometimes have in pursuing a Northwestern Mutual career.

college campus visit

Hoefert-Redlinger also always shares information with college students about the Sioux Falls Young Professionals Network, or YPN, and the broader experience of living in the city.

“I really believe as employers it’s our responsibility to sell the city of Sioux Falls and to sell the state of South Dakota, so we make that part of all our speaking engagements,” she said. “And we get our interns really involved in Sioux Falls, including philanthropy, so they’re plugged in and introduced to a lot of people. Even if it’s not with us, then they have a path here.”

She is a frequent attendee at WIN in Workforce and encourages others to attend too.

“If you struggle with retention and recruitment, you’ll hear from people who do it well and want to share ideas,” she said. “You’ll hear from everyone from young professionals to companies who share different approaches. It’s a great platform to show the opportunities here and how it amazing it is that we live in a city that wants to retain talent enough to invest in a whole event around it.”

The Sioux Falls Development Foundation is an approved recertification provider from the Society for Human Resource Management, and human resources professionals who attend WIN can earn nine professional development credits.

Tickets are $89 for in-person attendance, which includes lunch and snacks, and $20 for virtual attendance. Group discounts are available. Contact

To learn more and register, click here.