Economic development ‘hunting season’ is too short

Economic development 'hunting season' is too short
The bright colors of autumn are evident in South Dakota, and one of the most popular fall colors is the blaze orange of hunting caps and vests, as local residents and out-of-state guests pursue our wily pheasants. Coming as it does during the harvest, the annual pheasant season reminds us that economic development shares a great deal with two vital South Dakota industries � farming and hunting.

In economic development, "hunting" is the active pursuit of new or expanding companies with a goal of enticing them to locate to our communities. The business attraction and recruitment model is one that is most familiar to people � and one that community development groups often look to when planning their strategies for growth.

The problem with "hunting" for outside businesses is that, frankly, there are fewer of those outside businesses than there are pheasants. And those companies are often harder to "flush out" than our native ringneck is. It is often more productive to turn to the "farming" model when considering economic development plans.

Think about it. If we adopt a course of "growing" businesses in our communities, we have a tremendous number of advantages from the start. First, we know the land. The companies and economic strengths of each community are financial and social realities we live with every day. We don't have to scout the ditches and shelterbelts to find opportunity � we know every hill and gully of our economic terrain.

Second, since our foundations are in agriculture, we understand that the smallest seed is an essential element in the yield at harvest time. We plant the seeds and are willing to put in the time and resources to nourish those seeds, knowing full well that the time and trouble we put into our fields today will pay off tomorrow.

Most important, when we "grow our own," we know that the economic benefits of that harvest will stay in and around our own community. When we have nurtured a local business, encouraged a local entrepreneur or provided resources that allow for the expansion of a local employer, we are creating a ripple effect that will spread through the community, triggering more prosperity.

Growing business locally is a strategy for success that any community, of any size, can use to its advantage. It takes a little work, starting with analyzing what economic strengths you have right now, and what resources you have available to make a difference for your business base. That's where South Dakota Rural Enterprise and other development organizations can help you take advantage of regional similarities, and the successful ideas other towns have implemented.

It's great to enjoy the hunting season and the beauty of being outdoors in South Dakota. But when it's time to think about making our communities better places to live and work, let's remember our farm heritage and plant seeds in our back 40. That's the best way to work together for a harvest of prosperity.

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