• July/August 2018

Forward Sioux Falls’ initiatives lift up the area’s economy

By Mike Lynch
Forward Sioux Falls

As the primary economic development initiative in the area, Forward Sioux Falls leverages many of our time-tested core programs that have proven successful. The current initiative, “MOMENTUM,” is the seventh since 1987 and centers around workforce attraction, retention and development. The Strategic Workforce Action Agenda is our roadmap to meet these objectives. Significant research was completed in 2015 to establish the programmatic blueprint for MOMENTUM, including a familiarization tour of the region, focus groups and interview sessions which produced a deeper understanding of the region’s short and long-term needs and opportunities. This research led to the formation of a competitive assessment, workforce sustainability analysis and ultimately, implementation guidelines for the Strategic Workforce Action Agenda.

Led by a cohort of community leaders and Market Street Services, a premier provider of community, workforce and economic development strategic planning services, this four-phase plan was developed using deliberate, methodical processes over a six-month period.

From the launch of MOMENTUM in April 2016, staff from the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce and Sioux Falls Development Foundation along with several community leaders have facilitated implementation of the Strategic Workforce Action Agenda and we are confident that continued execution of this agenda will effectively position our region for economic success.

As we approach the midway point of the current initiative, the following serves as a progress report for programmatic activity.


The continuing development of the community portal, siouxfalls.com, provides opportunities for human resource departments to showcase the quality of life attributes the Sioux Falls area has to offer by illustrating why our city is such a great place to live, work, play and grow. Phase II will feature company profile pages of Forward Sioux Falls’ investors. These will allow businesses to feature various aspects of their organizations, such as company culture, photos and current job openings.

Through the Development Foundation, Forward Sioux Falls continues to work with organizations to identify various population segments to help mitigate workforce challenges. These populations include veterans, people with disabilities, homeless, at-risk youth, immigrants and refugees, reformed offenders and retirees.

The Development Foundation has debuted WIN (Workforce Information Now), an interactive publication providing information on current workforce programs, resources companies can access, featured businesses and best practices. WIN features companies with unique workforce cultures that enhance the daily work environment of their employees. The goal is to generate conversations and provide businesses with innovative ideas they can use to enhance their own workplace.

A workforce summit facilitated by the Development Foundation is scheduled for Aug. 23 and features a keynote speaker, breakout sessions and provide businesses a chance to discuss workforce challenges and opportunities.

Forward Sioux Falls continues to invest in Sioux Falls Thrive, whose purpose is to optimize educational achievement from cradle to career. A board of directors, strategy council and action team form the foundation of the current work being done. The first initiative focused on homelessness among children in the Sioux Falls area.

After funding a strategic plan for University Center-Sioux Falls, Forward Sioux Falls also assisted UC to formulate a policy manual and recommend candidates to serve on a new Community Steering Board. The board is comprised of business and community leaders, whose purpose is to provide input on strategic planning, programs/services, operations, finance and other related issues at UC to ensure the community has direct and regular communication with UC leadership to monitor current performance and to help shape the future development of the Center.

Forward Sioux Falls has partnered with Southeast Tech to create “Sponsor a Scholar,” which offers companies the potential to receive a $2,600 grant to offset remaining expenses of their industry partner commitment for the Build Dakota Scholarship Fund. This past year, 11 grants were issued to industry partners.

Forward Sioux Falls has also assisted Southeast Tech with several “Sector Breakfasts,” which serve to provide a more cohesive link between coursework and certifications offered at Southeast Tech and employment needs within the Sioux Falls area business community.

Partnering with the City of Sioux Falls, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and the Development Foundation, Forward Sioux Falls continues to develop Foundation Park, South Dakota’s first mega-site. Infrastructure for the project has been completed and the site is BNSF-certified. Win Chill, LLC, the anchor tenant for Foundation Park, has begun operations on their 54-acre site and has already announced plans to expand its footprint. In May 2018, Dakota Carriers was announced as the second tenant within Foundation Park. Company officials plan to be operational by October.

Development activities and interest continue to run ahead of expectations for the USD Discovery District, an 80-acre contemporary corporate and academic research park under development in northwest Sioux Falls. Construction of 2,800 linear feet of street and utility infrastructure was completed in September of 2017 and additional infrastructure construction is planned for 2018 and 2019. In June, it was announced that SAB Biotherapeutics and Alumend will become the Discovery District’s anchor tenants.

Entrepreneurship & Innovation

The Zeal Center for Entrepreneurship focuses on creating a thriving epicenter of entrepreneurship and a pipeline of emerging rapid growth businesses to further expand and diversify the Sioux Falls economy.

Zeal’s most recent economic impact data shows its clients and graduates have secured more than $172 million in equity funding and employ 728 people in Sioux Falls with average annual salaries exceeding $69,000.

Business Recruitment, Retention & Expansion

A strong effort to build relationships with site selectors has evolved within the past year as well as direct recruitment of businesses including facilitation of a familiarization tour and contracting with a lead generation development company.

Digital marketing efforts have been implemented and advanced in 2018, especially to promote siouxfalls.com, recruitment to communities who have been affected by large company shutdowns and the upcoming workforce summit.

In collaboration with the City and State, the Development Foundation reached out to 21 company’s conducting business retention and expansion visits (BR&E), in 2018. Going back twelve months, the Development Foundation jointly conducted 40 BR&E visits.

Business Advocacy & Quality of Place Enhancement

Advocating at all levels of government for a better business climate has long been supported by Forward Sioux Falls. Staff from the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce have represented the interest of business during governmental meetings including Sioux Falls City Council, Minnehaha County and the Sioux Falls Public School District. Additionally, a full-time lobbyist is assigned to Pierre during the South Dakota Legislative Session to ensure that bills affecting Sioux Falls area business interests and the impact of proposed legislation on those interests are communicated to legislators. Moreover, there is close interaction with our state’s congressional delegation, including facilitation of three Inside Washington events in the past year and a Sioux Falls/Rapid City D.C. fly-in planned for September 2018.

The Chamber Public Policy staff hosted three legislative coffees and six candidate forums to help voters become better acquainted with not only the elected officials who serve them, but also issues important to the business community.

Air Service & International Trade

Forward Sioux Falls has been instrumental to augment marketing efforts at the Sioux Falls Regional Airport and to ensure that airline carriers and flight offerings are complementary to the needs of the business community and the public at large.

Forward Sioux Falls has also partnered with the South Dakota Small Business Development Center and U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry & Security to enhance use of the FSD International Port of Entry to import and export goods in the region.

Forward Sioux Falls helped establish the International Trade Center at the Sioux Falls Regional Airport and we will continue to promote use of the Port of Entry by Sioux Falls and South Dakota businesses. This spring, we welcomed both David O’Sullivan, the ambassador and head of the European Union Delegation to the United States, and Canadian Consul General Paul Connors in separate events. Both offered insights and perspective on international trade and foreign policy.

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