Balancing preservation with change discussed at the SHEDCO annual membership banquet

Photo by Brett Nachtigall/Fall River Count Herald-Star

With SHEDCO President Kelly Cape looking on from his table, Jennifer Sietsema with the Black Hills Council of Local Governments speaks to an audience of approximately 90 people during last Thursday night’s banquet at Jalapeno’s Grill.

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By Brett Nachtigall

Publisher

HOT SPRINGS – Approximately 90 people were in attendance at the Annual Membership Banquet of the Southern Hills Economic Development Corporation (SHEDCO) last Thursday night, Jan. 18, at Jalapeno’s Grill in Hot Springs.

Held in the lower level of the restaurant, the event featured a buffet style meal following a social hour and then concluding with several speakers.

SHEDCO President Kelly Cape led things off by welcoming the audience and then stated that the organization’s primary has been and remains to be housing.

“We’ve made progress but know we’re not close to the end game there,” Cape said.

Executive Director Andrea Powers then introduced State Home Director Chuck Johnson and also Fall River Health Service CEO Jeremy Schultes.

Schultes spoke briefly about his organization’s plans to build workforce housing on some nearby property, located west of the hospital along Hwy. 71. He compared their plans to something he was involved with in Spearfish several years ago, when the hospital there discovered that kindergarten classes were getting smaller due to parents choosing to settle in nearby Belle Fourche instead of Spearfish.

To combat that trend, an effort was put into action to build workforce housing, which at time meant homes in the $120,000 range. Today, those same homes are selling for around $300,000, demonstrating the reality of how “workforce housing” home prices have increased dramatically in a short amount of time.

The night’s featured speaker was Jennifer Sietsema, Executive Director of the Black Hills Council of Local Governments, which is part of the West River Business Service Center in Rapid City. 

According to her organization’s website, Black Hills Council provides a variety of assistance to communities and organizations looking to finance infrastructure and community facilities projects. From concept to construction, Sietsema and her staff can help through all stages of project development including identifying potential grant and loan funding sources, application preparation, and grant and loan administration.

She said her office oversees nine counties in Western South Dakota while working with each of the various planning districts of city and county government.

The theme of her speech was “Balancing Preservation with a Need for Change.” She emphasized that one of the most important things to do is to be in tune with the city’s Comprehensive Plan, while adding that Hot Springs’ Comprehensive Plan is titled “Historical Past, Sustainable Future.”

Sietsema said the one’s city is often in the driver’s seat for most forms of economic development, and while you may not need the city’s assistance throughout the entire process, you will most likely need it at some point along the way.

She offered some tips on developing ideas and plans for development, which included always leaving a meeting with some kind of action item. She also recommended looking at one’s community through someone else’s eyes. To do so, she suggested taking a drive around your town with someone not from the area and asking them what they see, to include what the town is missing, as well as its other strengths and weaknesses.

Sietsema also spoke about how communities can hold onto their past by remodeling existing structures, compared to building new buildings. She said if a town’s historic identity is lost, you then have to work harder to recreate it.

Fall River County Herald Star

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