Meeting South Dakota Governor Daugaard at the Governor’s Awards Banquet was the highlight of Kaye Waugh’s experience at this year’s Governor’s Economic Development conference in Sioux Falls. “It was my first time meeting the governor,” said Waugh, who is Vice President of the Wessington Economic Development Corporation. “The governor spoke to us about his recent Trade Mission to China before handing out achievement awards to extra ordinary individuals and communities who made significant contributions to economic development.”
Waugh enjoyed meeting other key people involved in the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, the SD Department of Labor and Regulation and SD Department of Tourism.
Impressed by the conference theme, which was “Partners in Possibilities: Team South Dakota”, Waugh said she was definitely inspired by the speakers she encountered during the two day event, April 16 and 17. She came away with a few nuggets she hopes can be applied to the Wessington community.
“The keynote speaker, Kevin Freiberg, touched on important points as he gave strategies for getting more people to live in our communities,” said Waugh. Freiberg spoke about Winning Clients for Life by “engaging in courtship after marriage.” He likened the process of winning people to our communities to a courtship, where you go all out to make a positive impression and actively woo them. Once the courtship is over, there may be a tendency to take them for granted, but that is not the time to let down, but rather a time to pay attention to those details that made them fall in love with your community in the first place.
“Connect, connect, connect to the business that adds value to your community, is what he said,” asserted Waugh. “Either we stand out or we perish.”
Waugh also strongly believes that if we build an economic development based on the principle, “Be hungry for change”, we can evoke new opportunities and form new leaderships in our community. There is also a great need to understand that growing our communities involves not just utilizing technology, but understanding the culture–that is, the relationships–that make up the community.
In a breakout session on Business Retention and Expansion, Waugh said the speaker emphasized the need to be proactive in expanding existing businesses since they are already a part of our community. “Sixty-seven percent of businesses/people leave a community because they feel neglected, not taken seriously, or under appreciated,” stated Waugh. “Small businesses need to be making it here or they will leave.”
Another speaker stressed the importance of knowing the competition and what your community is up against. Knowing what the surrounding communities “are up to” opens up opportunities to partner with them. “We create relationship by partnering with our neighbors and recognizing the industries in our area that provide goods and services,” said Waugh.
Waugh was most intrigued with a breakout session entitled “How to Attract Workers to Rural America.” There, Waugh heard about Dakota Roots, a SD Department of Labor and Regulation program, whose main objective is cultivating in-state career opportunities for out-of-state residents who wish to grow personally and professionally in South Dakota. Dakota Roots, the state’s largest job search database, connects individuals wanting to move (or move back) to South Dakota with future employers, and business owners looking for qualified workers to fill in key positions in their organization.
According to Waugh, there are 10,000 job listings on the SD Department of Labor and Regulation website, and there is not enough people in the workforce to fill those jobs. Dakota Roots seeks to bring individuals, employers, and state government resources together to help grow the South Dakota workforce.
Waugh also learned the value of using social media like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google Plus to promote the community. While these were familiar to Waugh, she also learned of other websites that could be linked into our Wessington web page, such as Klout, Google Alerts, Blurp.com, Hashtag, prweb.com and Topsy, just to name a few, which are all useful for search and analysis of the social web.
Waugh came away from that session convinced that Wessington needs to “dress up” our website in addition to creating a blog to the current web presence on Facebook. She also believes it would be good for Wessington to have a logo to be used in marketing.
Overall, Waugh was quite impacted by the GOED conference. In fact, one might say that attending the conference has sparked a passion in her for seeing the town of Wessington clarify its own unique mission and purpose, as many other successful communities around the state have done already. “The governor has a vision and he has inspired me to have a vision too,” says Waugh. “My vision is to see a five percent growth in population within five years, and to see the people of our community come together to decide where we want our town to be in the next ten to twenty years. We either stand out or perish!”