Arlington is not the only rural community struggling to maintain economic foothold in the Walmart and .com world. What set’s Arlington apart from some communities is a willingness to stake a claim to the future; insisting on a dynamic and proactive program of economic development.
Economic development has been important for many years in Arlington. The difficulties faced were in part due to the fact that private, motivated, citizens were carrying the torch. While earning their paycheck, a few champions volunteered to take on development as a second job but could not always devote the time required. In August, of last year, Arlington took an important step towards establishing a permanent foundation for economic development: Hiring someone to do it full-time.
To help defray some of the costs associated with hiring full-time professional economic development the Arlington Community Development Corporation and the City of Arlington enlisted the help of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) through the Economic Development Partnership Program.
The program provides matching grants to assist in funding equipment and training needs, new staff, or to elevate existing part-time staff, for the purpose of developing or expanding local and community economic development programs.
Arlington is not the only rural community to partner with the Governor’s Office on the economic development, almost every county in the state has applied for some economic development money.
GOED Partnership Grant Administrator Cherissa Wright says the job and wealth creation associated with grant money has been very promising. “Through the 24 funded programs a total of 1042 jobs were created or retained in 2014 and we are anticipating another 218 jobs in 2015.”
Every GEOD partnership dollar is intended to have a multiplier effect by helping bring new businesses to communities, helping retain existing businesses or providing ways to further develop local wealth.
“The programs that have been funded through the partnership grant are varied. Many assist with salary for full or part-time economic developers, some assist with work-force development efforts and some are targeted towards entrepreneurship,” GOED finance director Kim Easland says. “Equally diverse are the communities receiving money - from Kimball [pop. 703] to Sioux Falls [pop. 164,676] and everywhere else in between.”
Arlington’s $88,310 grant is spread over four years and requires matching funds from the City Economic Development Fund and the Arlington Community Development Corporation.
“Jason is an excellent example of why the Economic Development Partnership Fund is so important to South Dakota,” said Commissioner Pat Costello. “By assisting communities like Arlington to have a full-time developer, and providing that person with the training tools they need, we are putting more and more communities on a pro-active path to development.”
Dick Werner, District 22 State Representative, sponsored one of the House bills that eventually became Senate Bill 235, referred to as “Building South Dakota,” which is responsible for funding economic development efforts in the state.
Rep. Werner adds, “What's good for Arlington is good for South Dakota. I wanted to have every community, willing to have a stake in the game, to be able to have someone in their community that could wake up every morning to work on economic development.”
Now that the grant monies have established the position the truly hard work will follow. Together the citizens of Arlington along with the Development Corporation, the City, the school and GOED can work together to build a bright future.
Picture, from left to right: Cherissa Wright, Kim Easland, Jason Uphoff, Pat Costello