Mayor turned city administrator and economic development director shares outlook for Baltic

Dec. 28, 2018

This paid piece is sponsored by the Minnehaha County Economic Development Association.

When the growing community of Baltic had a position open at City Hall, it didn’t have to look any farther than the leader who had served the community in a different capacity for years.

Mike Wendland served as mayor for 18 years, currently serves as the president of Minnehaha County Economic Development Association and is a past president of the South Dakota Municipal League.

He became Baltic’s city administrator and economic development director in October.

We caught up with him for a look at his new role and how the community keeps expanding.

What kind of year has this been for Baltic? How would you describe the level of business activity?

Housing continues to be strong both in new home construction and sales of existing homes. Earlier this year, we welcomed the Someday Cafe. Having a place to enjoy a home-cooked, sit-down meal in town is a great addition. The cafe has seen great local support as well as patronage from surrounding communities and even Sioux Falls. AT Analytical continues to experience strong business growth and is in the process of adding an additional building. The other businesses in town continue to remain busy and strong.

What do you credit for Baltic’s continued population growth?

There are a lot of great communities in this part of the state. When it comes to Baltic, I believe there are four factors Baltic offers that can be credited to the population growth.

First is the cost of living. Baltic’s property taxes and water/sewer rates are among the lowest in Minnehaha County. Second is the school system. With an enrollment of  about 500 and an average class size of 40, it is large enough to offer a wide variety of academic and co-curricular activities all while still getting the one-on-one attention.

Third, with a population of about 1,300 and an average age of 32, Baltic continues to give you a true sense of community. When you go to the convenience store, cafe, bank, church, day care, hair salon, thrift store, insurance offices, telephone company, funeral home, library, Legion Bar or lumberyard, you will inevitably run into someone you know. It’s where you know your neighbors, and your kids can play outside knowing they will be safe.

Lastly, proximity to Sioux Falls. In a very short 15-minute drive, you can enjoy the amenities of the “big city,” but in that same short drive, you can be home.

Tell us a little about your new role as city administrator and economic development director. How does it differ from being mayor?

The city administrator role is not new to Baltic. The city administrator is responsible for all the administrative and operational activities of the city. What is new is the economic development director. With Baltic currently not having a chamber of commerce or development corporation, the City Council felt this was a void and adding this role to the city administrator would be very advantageous. The main difference between my role now and being the mayor is time. I am now able to be more directly involved in the day-to-day happenings at City Hall.  Additionally, I am now available and more flexible for phone calls, meetings and tours rather than limited to evenings.

What are some of your goals in your new role?

City administrator: In a small office of four employees, teamwork and communication are extremely important. I want to foster an environment where being informed of what’s happening creates a sense of employee satisfaction as well as being able to provide a better service to the citizens of Baltic or anyone we interact with. Become familiar with the processes of the finance officer to ensure a continuity of business is in place. Understanding and identifying opportunities of the infrastructure. For example, disaster-mitigation planning and grant-funding opportunities for lift stations as well as water-loss analysis.

Economic development director: Utilize my extensive partnership and network contacts to promote and grow Baltic. I have already met with a number of developers and investment brokers and look forward to ongoing possibilities and opportunities. Work with developers and landowners to strategically plan for additional growth.  Educate the citizens on the importance of supporting local business. This is extremely important to keeping our existing businesses open as well as what that indicates to any potential new business.

What are your expectations for 2019 in Baltic? Do you have a sense that building activity will continue?

I expect Baltic to experience continued housing growth. Dirt and infrastructure work began last fall in the Baltic Heights housing area. When completed, this area will allow for 33 more single-family homes.

What does Baltic’s long-term growth plan look like? How would you describe your hopes for population, infrastructure and development expansion?

I am very optimistic in all three of these areas. From an infrastructure perspective, the current system is up to date, operating well and has capacity for additional growth.  For the future, I currently have our engineers, Banner Engineering, working on a 30-year planning study. The results of this study will aid us in proactively planning and staying ahead of infrastructure needs. Patience is vital to development expansion.

In addition, land, population and local support are elements that developers I have been speaking to consider when they are looking to invest in a community. The good thing is Baltic has available commercial land, population continues to grow, and the citizens support our local businesses. I have been in conversation with a developer who is very interested in expanding Baltic’s housing. We are hopeful that land acquisition allows this additional housing to occur.

Mayor turned city administrator and economic development director shares outlook for Baltic

Baltic just keeps on growing. This year brought a new restaurant and preparation for adding more homes. We caught up with the mayor-turned-city administrator to learn what’s coming next.

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