Hall of Fame worthy: When this town needed businesses, he took them on and then some

May 30, 2018

This piece is presented by SDN Communications.

By Vernon Brown, vice president of marketing and member relations

Sometimes in Sioux Falls we’re know-it-alls about business.

We think if the concept isn’t hatched, developed and promoted here, it doesn’t really matter.

Even as a farm kid from rural South Dakota, I can be guilty of it myself. However, I’m here to tell you Kennebec has it going on. Don’t know where it’s at? I’m not surprised. Neither are the 261 people who call it home. Their town tag line is “Where the heck is Kennebec?”

You’ll find it at I-90, exit 265, 30 miles west of Chamberlain. If you look north — that’s to the right for the directionally challenged city slickers heading toward Pierre or the Black Hills — you’ll see Kennebec’s brief skyline featuring the Lyman County Courthouse in the foreground and concrete grain elevators in the background.

While Sioux Falls businesspeople might call this drive-by country, much of Lyman County’s commerce begins and ends here. Whether it’s an internet connection, a phone line, electrical contracting, construction grading or car parts, one humble man stands behind much of what drives the local economy there.

Rod Bowar has acquired, built and expanded seven businesses and given back to the area in immeasurable ways. His flagship business, Kennebec Telephone Co. – the last South Dakota resident family-owned telephone company – sits as prominently and meaningfully on a Kennebec corner as does our chamber of commerce at Eighth and Phillips.

Bowar serves on SDN Communications’ board. I’ve admired his wit, tenaciousness and business savvy since I first met him 14 years ago. Because of his amazing personal story and tireless work in keeping rural South Dakota viable, we at SDN nominated him for the South Dakota Hall of Fame. The selection committee agrees he’s worthy and will induct him in September.

So why should you, as a Sioux Falls businessperson care? Two reasons: education and workforce development. Bowar serves on the newly formed Technical Education Board, and he brings a unique perspective and practice to filling his own businesses with young workers.

Earlier this year, my colleague Andrea Leesch and I spent a good part of a day doing a video story with Bowar at his many enterprises. It stands as my favorite workday this year. Take a listen to his wisdom and why he gives back to his community and young people. Stick with it to the end. He shares some humbling and surprising advice.

Hall of Fame worthy: When this town needed businesses, he took them on and then some

He has acquired, built and expanded seven businesses in one small South Dakota town.

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