By Travis Gulbrandson
Vermillion took a step into the future Tuesday morning.
That’s what multiple city and business officials said during a groundbreaking ceremony for Eagle Creek Software Services, which took place at the southwest corner of Princeton and Bower streets, north of the old Pamida building.
“It’s a beautiful day here, and it’s going to be a bright future,” said Dr. Mel Ustad, director of commercialization at the South Dakota Governor’s Office of Economic Development.
Eagle Creek’s president Ken Behrendt agreed, saying, “We think that this is the way the world’s going to go. We think over the next 10 years there’s going to be hundreds of thousands of jobs repatriated to the United States from offshore outsourcing, and we think they’re going to go to South Dakota.
“It’s our mission, our goal, that we can bring those jobs to South Dakota,” he said.
Eagle Creek provides consulting and technical expertise, focusing on customer relationship management, information management and applications development.
The ceremony took place at the site of what eventually will be Eagle Creek’s home in Vermillion. Currently, the area is a dug-up corner of an alfalfa field southwest of Walmart. When workers complete their task, Eagle Creek’s new home – a 32,000 square foot building – will be added to Vermillion’s skyline.
The company’s mission is to help its clients increase quality and efficiencies while managing price and risk in software development, deployment and support.
Berhrendt said he hopes to continue to expand this mission in Vermillion.
“We will compete against everyone in the world,” he said. “We will deliver multi-million dollar projects out of here. We will compete against every global technology company there is, and we’ve demonstrated over the last nine years that we can compete, and we can successfully implement technology across the world.”
The announcement that Eagle Creek was coming to Vermillion was made in the spring.
Steve Howe, executive director of the Vermillion Chamber & Development Center (VCDC), said that there has been “a great amount of activity since that time,” with Eagle Creek and the University of South Dakota collaborating on a training class and establishing a data graduate program at the Beacom School of Business.
Earlier this year, Howe estimated an opening date for the facility as being the end of next April or the beginning of next May.
When it is completed, the Eagle Creek facility will bring approximately 200 new jobs to Vermillion, Howe said Tuesday.
“The impact that these jobs will have on the local economy is really going to change what Vermillion and other communities in the state are going to look like,” Howe said.
Berhrendt said about 80 to 90 percent of the incoming staff will relocate to Vermillion from outside South Dakota.
This is possible, he said, because the community and the university are “great.”
“Those are the attributes that allow us to bring the staff here,” he said. “Our commitment is to 200 people here in Vermillion. We’ll have a 32,000 square foot facility. We’ll be able to house 200 people, and we know we’re going to get them.”
Ustad said the Eagle Creek project serves to fulfill one of the state’s primary objectives.
“From the state’s perspective, one of our goals is to provide quality job opportunities for South Dakotans, and part of that is providing greater opportunities, or more opportunities, for college graduates … to stay here and pursue their careers,” he said. “I think Eagle Creek provides that opportunity.”
Berhendt said he hopes to have at least 100 people at Eagle Creek by the end of next year.
“We’re seeing demand,” he said. “From the time we announced this (project) and today, our demand for this type of technology and resources has probably tripled to quintupled. That’s where the demand is going.”
USD President James Abbott praised the various entities that worked together so the project could come to fruition.
“(Bureaucracy) is the way the world works,” Abbott said. “But the world works differently and better if people of like minds decide to sit down and basically on a handshake, make something happen. …
“(You all) are making it very clear to all of us that we intend to make this work,” he said.
Vermillion Mayor Jack Powell echoed these statements, saying he believes that the arrival of Eagle Creek will be “another defining moment or event in our community.”
“It is a pleasure to welcome them to Vermillion, and we wish them great success as they live, work and grow among us,” Powell said. “We’re looking forward to a great continuing partnership.”
Berhrendt returned the compliment, saying that Tuesday’s event would not have happened without the work of the community, the university and the state.
Howe concluded his remarks by thanking many of the groups and individuals who helped the project become a reality, including the City of Vermillion, the Clay County Commission, the University of South Dakota, the state of South Dakota, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, the VCDC board of directors, the Vermillion School District, the Vermillion Now! project, First Dakota National Bank, Dakota Resources and Puetz Construction.
“There have been so many wonderful people who have participated,” Howe said.
The headquarters of Eagle Creek Software Services is located in Eden Prairie, MN. The company was founded in 1999 and has project centers in Pierre and Valley City, ND.
For more information, visit http://www.eaglecrk.com/.