Regional council conducts SWOT analysis for nine-county regionThe South Central Dakota Regional Council evaluated strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in its nine-county region Thursday as a review of comprehensive economic development strategies.
By: Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun
The South Central Dakota Regional Council evaluated strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in its nine-county region Thursday as a review of comprehensive economic development strategies.
The SCDRC board of directors is made up of elected city and county officials from Barnes, Dickey, Foster, Griggs, LaMoure, Logan, McIntosh, Stutsman and Wells counties focused on economic and community development.
Close to 20 officials plus SCDRC staff offered their insights at Thursday’s meeting.
The quality of life in the region was a strength to many in attendance.
“People want to help people and I think that’s a strength,” said Keith Heidiner, LaMoure County commissioner. “How do you put a value on that? It’s just something that’s there.”
Vince Watkins, representing LaMoure County cities, said rural areas have excess infrastructure with room for development. He also said living conditions in the region have improved.
Economically the region is positioned well, said Kim Lees, representing Stutsman County small cities. There is a good tax structure and good economy for agriculture and energy, which should attract business.
Other strengths board members brought up were the low cost of living, safe communities and no traffic problems.
The region also has opportunities. Craig Neys, Stutsman County representative, pointed out that the proposed projects at the Spiritwood Energy Park could bring growth to communities surrounding Jamestown.
Farms will also need more people to help with the crops, and technicians to fix farm machinery will be needed, Lees said.
The opportunity for trade labor is so great in Kulm that the city was willing to pay for a man to learn plumbing if he was willing to return and work in the area, Heidinger said.
SCDRC board members also had offered a number of weaknesses, including absentee ownerism, or people from out of state who own a property and only use it for a month of the year.
Namely hunters come to the prairie pothole region, buy a house because it’s affordable and use it only during an open hunting season.
“If you think of the economic impact that would have if people lived in those homes 12 months of the year instead of one,” Watkins said. “We have jobs, everything they need. Why don’t they want to live here? That’s what I want to know.”
Another issue discussed was the starting wage for skilled jobs, the housing available if a family wanted to relocate to the region and the lack of skilled labor.
The region still relies on agriculture but Katie Gussiaas, from the Foster County soil conversation district, pointed out that land is too expensive to start a farm.
“It’s impossible for people to come back and start out,” she said.
A few board members claimed the younger generation doesn’t have a strong work ethic, and displays a need to start at the top in a company.
“It’s not about how much they make in most cases anymore,” said Don Frye, a representative from cities in Foster County. “It’s about other issues. Young people saw what happened to parents who committed to companies then got cut loose.”
Frye said there is a lack of understanding in the generational gap.
“This world is different than when we grew up,” Neys said. “It’s totally different.”
Some threats to the region discussed were losing the quality of life the region has with the influx of workers in the Oil Patch.
Drought could also spell disaster for the agricultural economy, as could a decline in the agricultural cycle.
Frye said access to medical services will change in the next five years as well.
One issue that that repeatedly came up at Thursday’s meeting was the lack of housing.
Deb Kantrud, SCDRC executive director, and Becky Meidinger, Small Business Development Center business adviser, were recently part of a group that reviewed a statewide housing needs assessment, recently issued by the North Dakota Housing Finance Agency.
“An issue in our area was the fact this housing assessment was completed before any of the large projects possibly taking place in our region were announced,” Meidinger said.
The report showed this region only experiencing 3.3 percent population growth from 2010 to 2025, the lowest in the state.
SCDRC will conduct its own assessment to get a more detailed and accurate representation of the housing situation in this nine-county region.
“The purpose of our regional assessment will be to use this basic information, but really drill down and get information from each community,” Kantrud said. “It’ll identify and look at a number of areas to impact housing and communities.”
Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org