While celebrating the past, VCDC looks to a brighter future

It's hard to beat a banquet experience that includes the highly spirited Joe Glenn, head football coach of the USD Coyotes, as its keynote speaker.

Joe Glenn, who became the 29th head football coach at the University of South Dakota last December, was keynote speaker at the Vermillion Area Chamber of Commerce and Development Company’s annual awards banquet Tuesday. (Photo by David Lias)

Paul Preister, president of the board of directors of the Vermillion Chamber of Commerce and Development Company (VCDC) was able to steal a bit of Glenn's thunder.

"Our organization has something very special to announce," Preister told the capacity crowd that turned out for the VCDC annual awards banquet Tuesday night at Pro's Bar & Grill in Vermillion. "All our businesses have worked hard to recruit new businesses to our area, and I'd like to announce that we've been able to recruit another business."

Vermillion will soon be home to Navigant, a Chicago-based company.

"They have confirmed that they will be moving to Vermillion, and are planning to be here within the next two months," Preister said.

The banquet crowd reacted with loud applause.

"This is a consulting company," he said. "They work with a variety of industries, but they are moving to Vermillion as they are expanding into the medical billing and coding sector. They will be working with small medical companies across the nation."

Navigant already has a presence in South Dakota, with facilities currently operating in Plankinton and Mitchell.

"We competed with a lot of communities, so we are very fortunate to have them," Preister said. "They plan to have 50 to 60 employees here by the end of the year, and they are also planning to double that number to 120 by the end of 2013.

"They are a company that fits well with Vermillion," he said. "They are able to diversify our industry mix with the success we've had in the community with the expansion of jobs in our manufacturing industry, so we're really looking forward to having them here."

Preister said the VCDC staff led by Executive Director Steve Howe, Mayor Jack Powell, City Manager John Prescott, Mike Keller and Gary Girard from USD, officials from the state Department of Labor and the Governor's Office of Economic Development, and the Vermillion NOW! Advisory Council all played a role in helping to attract the new employer to the community.

"The most important factor, and I think everyone here will agree with this, is the Vermillion Now! Contributors," Preister said. "Vermillion NOW! has been such a success in the last couple of years. The community has joined together; there's been a lot of teamwork with all of the donations. This wouldn't have been possible without all of the contributors that make Vermillion NOW! possible."

In July of 2009, organizers of Vermillion NOW! not only met their goal of $1.5 million in donations and pledges, but surpassed it. Over 105 local investors pledged amounts ranging from a high of $450,000 pledged by the city of Vermillion in $90,000 increments over the next five years, to several one-time gifts of $500 or less.

A committee made up of approximately 20 people settled on several main goals at the time of the launch of the Vermillion NOW! campaign in January 2009, including new business recruitment and expansion, marketing, workforce development and entrepreneurial development.

The capital campaign was launched in January 2009 after an analysis of the Vermillion community by the VCDC board demonstrated that the community needed funding to stimulate further economic development.

The banquet crowd was already in a very good mood before Preister's announcement. It had dined on a meal prepared by Pro's Bar & Grill and listened to the highly energetic Coach Glenn.

Glenn devoted most of his talk to simply entertaining his audience with his unique wit and humorous stories. Some of his tales included his wife, Michele, who sat just a few feet away from the podium.

"We were at a deal like this once, and as we were leaving, a lady came up to Michele and said, 'Boy, I bet you've heard your husband give a thousand speeches.' Michele said, 'No, I haven't. I've heard him give the same speech a thousand times.'"

Glenn did devote a few moments of his talk to Coyote football.

"I need to tell you how happy I am about the coaching staff," he said. "Most of the guys stayed on here with us, and they are some fantastic young men. I've never been part of staff of guys who have worked this hard, who have so much energy, and are so personable and so pointed.

"That's why I absolutely think we are going to have success here in our time," Glenn said. "Recruiting was just a treat."

During the process of traveling throughout the Midwest to attract prospective players, and at times hosting young athletes in the community as they visited USD, "we really bonded tremendously as a coaching staff, and everyone made me feel very, very welcome," he said.

Glenn said USD football competed directly with other teams in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, and did very well. "We got our fair share – I can't sit here and tell you that we got them all, but there's a tight end out of Omaha – Matt Miller – who signed here at South Dakota. He was offered at Ohio, Wyoming, North Dakota State, North Dakota, South Dakota State, and Illinois State, and he inked with us."

He added that another highlight of the recruiting season was signing a very athletic receiver from Ottumwa, IA.

"His selections were down to Army, to which he had already been appointed, South Dakota State, and he wanted (to study) business, so he chose the University of South Dakota," Glenn said. "Not because of me, but basically because of the great job that our business school has done."

He credited the many positive developments that have occurred at the university in the past decade.

"Those of you who have been on campus know what I'm talking about," Glenn said. "The place is amazing. I haven't been here for a while, but I can point to (USD President) Jim Abbott and the people he's had working for him in the past 10 to 15 years. The university has just gone off the chart.

"It's really special, and I think it's a big part of everything we're doing here with the Chamber, and I'm proud to be part of it."

In remarks made at the start of Tuesday's festivities, Howe noted the positive influence that the VCDC has had on the Vermillion community.

"Our organization this year grew in membership, and we have had successful events throughout the year," he said. "We continue to see increases in some of our indicators, such as visitor spending, and we've seen growth in new business and employment opportunities for our citizens.

"Right now, as an organization, I think we're banging on all cylinders, and we're very proud of the accomplishments that we've had this past year," Howe said. "But the successes that we've had didn't occur in a vacuum. It takes people who are willing to work hard and sacrifice. It takes people who are willing to work as a team."

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