Community, individual and business honored as regional Partners in Progress

Nov. 18, 2019

This paid piece is sponsored by the Lincoln County and Minnehaha County Economic Development Associations.

People, organizations and communities that are building for the future were recognized recently with 2019 Partners in Progress Awards, presented by the Lincoln County and Minnehaha County Economic Development Associations at their annual meeting.

“We wanted to recognize innovation, collaboration, economic and workforce development,” executive director Nick Fosheim said.

“These winners are fantastic examples of why the communities of Lincoln and Minnehaha counties are positioning themselves so well for the future.”

Community Innovation

It was a tough decision determining which area community should be recognized for innovation because the three nominees – Garretson, Hartford and Harrisburg – all have made significant strides in recent years.

But the fast-growing Lincoln County community of Harrisburg emerged as the winner.

“The key is that Harrisburg’s success isn’t because of just one person,” Fosheim said. “It’s really been a community effort. It wasn’t done in isolation. And that’s what we were looking for in those community innovation awards.”

The community of 6,500 has been a leader in meaningful ways, including through its approach to taking risks and driving innovation.

“It’s an honor but also a redemption for all the hard work so many people have put into this community,” said Mayor Julie Burke-VanLuvanee, who is in her seventh year as mayor.

The Harrisburg Economic Development Corporation and Chamber of Commerce has evolved significantly since it was founded six years ago and hired its first full-time president and CEO this year.

“The fact they can hire their own person is huge. I’m so proud of them,” Burke-VanLuvanee said.

“The chamber has become part of the monthly and annual routine of our business community. If that ever went away, I think they would feel lost. We have to have a venue for these businesses to coalesce and bounce ideas off each other, and they have taken that to the nth degree. Not only do they bounce ideas off each other, but people are becoming friends.”

Brandon Lane was hired to lead the organization in September.

“There’s a lot of growth happening in Harrisburg, and for somebody to step out front and be part of the conversation of helping to lead and guide it, that was some big thinking on their part,” Fosheim said. “And when you couple it with what’s happening in their schools and all the innovation they’re bringing forward, they’re continuing to be leaders in that space.”

Travis Lape, who became innovative programs director for the Harrisburg School District in 2017, has helped integrate technology into the elementary school level and most recently has worked to match high school students with immersive internship programs at area businesses.

He expects up to 35 students will take on internships this spring – double the participation from a year ago.

They will be matched with roles at everywhere from Showplace Wood Products to Schulte Subaru, in roles from accounting to auto repair.

“It makes school more meaningful,” Lape said. “It’s our mission to help those kids find their path, and the reason this is successful is because businesses have truly come alongside us. They’ve taught us what they need in their workforce, and they’ve helped us better understand how to make school more effective.”

And a partnership with the Home Builders Association of the Sioux Empire has led to the creation of the new Home Builders Academy, which will be ready for students in 2020.

“The first house will start to be built in January when we come back after break,” Lape said. “I think what really makes Harrisburg unique is that we have a district and a school board and community that really embraces the idea that school can work for all kids. It just might look different. And we’ve rallied around that idea.”

Looking ahead, Burke-VanLuvanee expects development momentum to continue in Harrisburg. The addition of a Fareway grocery store has helped increase sales tax and surrounding development. Well-known Sioux Falls developers Lloyd Cos. and Van Buskirk Cos. are active in the community. GreatLIFE Golf & Fitness just opened a large location there.

A new city engineer is helping determine the infrastructure needs and associated costs necessary to support the projected growth.

“The momentum is still there. We still have developers ready to get in,” she said. “I think people are starting to stay in our community and realize it has things to offer and things for a family of all ages to do. We’re hitting that next step that we started talking about 10 years ago.”

Regional Economic Development Champion: Joel Jorgenson, Brandon

Joel Jorgenson began serving as president of the Brandon Development Foundation in 1987 – and held the position for more than 30 years before stepping away in 2018.

Foundation achievements and economic advancements under his leadership include the development of four industrial development parks for the city of Brandon, recruitment and expansion of businesses that led to the creation of 1,400 jobs, and a $60 million increase to the city’s assessable property valuation.

Joel Jorgenson’s sons, Tim and Matt, accept his award from Nick Fosheim (left).

Jorgenson also owned and operated Sioux Marble for 30 years in Brandon.

“He has just been a force in Brandon in terms of helping to guide development,” Fosheim said. “He’s really seen a lot of growth and development happen out there, and he just has a way of making things happen.”

Business Partner of the Year: DeGeest Steel Works, Tea

As a third-generation family business, DeGeest Steel Works is committed to making connections between the classroom and careers in STEM.

The company has opened its doors to local student groups like Lego League and has been part of the What’s So Cool About Manufacturing video contest for middle school students in Tea.

President Derek DeGeest was recognized earlier this year as the South Dakota Small Business Person of the Year by the SBA.

“They’re just opening doors,” Fosheim said. “They’re always looking for ways they can partner and give back. They see it as an opportunity to expose students to careers, knowing that it might not ultimately benefit them but might benefit another business in the community or region. And they’re happy with that. Their commitment to their team and community along with their drive to innovate makes them worthy of this recognition.”

SBA honoree helps lead family business into next generation

Community, individual and business honored as regional Partners in Progress

People, organizations and communities that are building for the future were recognized recently with 2019 Partners in Progress Awards, presented by the Lincoln County and Minnehaha County Economic Development Associations at their annual meeting.

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