South Dakota has been awarded two regional training opportunities through the Stronger Economies Together (SET) initiative. USDA Rural Development (USDA RD), the nation’s four Regional Rural Development Centers and South Dakota State University Extension are collaborating for this initiative.
“While USDA RD staff directly impact communities with housing services and integral community infrastructure, the SET process is going to be one more way for communities to strive for economic vitality, improved quality of life, and sustainability,” said USDA RD South Dakota State Director Elsie Meeks, “In the end, everyone works together so that rural communities can address a broad range of other needs such as regional based planning and leadership development.”
South Dakota is currently the only upper Midwestern state that is part of the SET Process. The two South Dakota regions comprised of nine counties total are separated geographically and by different challenges and opportunities. The region located in the western part of the state has an estimated total population of fewer than 7,000, 20.4 percent of persons below poverty and have an average of one person per square mile. It is home in part to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and Badlands National Park.
The easterly located region has a total population of 38,154, a negative 5.15 percent change in population and 12.73 percent of persons below poverty. This region is largely agriculturally based with manufacturing to include a state-of-the-art, poultry harvesting and processing business; Dakota Provisions.
The two regions were part of an application process in May of this year and were self-designated. Each regional team will develop a vision and goals, examine regional demographics, opportunities, assets and barriers, and create a regional economic development plan. The program stresses continued local involvement and decision making, which is supported by partnerships among state-wide and area resource providers and economic development experts.
Regional planning is not something new to South Dakota but through the focused process of SET, supported by regionally based data and nurtured by dedicated Rural Development, Extension and resource providers; South Dakota looks forward to a plan for the future.