Learning as I Go

 – By

This week, I had the honor to speak to the newest group of NEW economic development professional’s cohort which is hosted by Dakota Resources. They traveled from Deadwood, Salem, Murdo and Platte and we sat down in Chamberlain to learn about our work together. I was asked to speak to this group as a “veteran” in the Economic Development world… I told them I am no expert and I am learning as I go.

We shared struggles, success stories, revolving loan fund information and how that can help communities, and communication strategies. They got to ask me questions and I got to visit with them about their work. I love what I do and I love telling people that. One of the things I tired to get through to them is I am learning as I go. Economic Development is different in every community and there is no manual or book to tell you what to do.

I gave them a few tips and I thought it would be a good reminder for our entire community about what we really do here at On Hand and what I am learning as I go:  

  • Be Patient- Economic development is a marathon, not a sprint. Ideas come in real fast but implementation takes time. There are systems, approval processes, financing hoops, and lots of other obstacles to overcome. Good work takes time.
  • Not alone- The economic development community is likely the best community of support I have ever worked with. There are resource providers all around the state of South Dakota ready and willing to help me with projects that will benefit our community.  The ones I have reached so far are Governor’s Office of Economic Development, NE Council of Governments, Dakota Resources, South Dakota Housing Development Authority, SD DOT, Grow SD, USDA Rural Development, South Dakota Small Business Development Center and of course our own board, Megan Fritzsche our assistant here at On Hand, and community members who are supportive and encouraging. I also urged them to reach out to other Economic Development people around our state.
  • You Don’t Have to Know Everything- If you don’t know the answer or how to do something, that’s ok. If someone asks you something and you don’t know, don’t lie or guess. Tell them you will find it out and get back to them as soon as you can. And make sure you get back to them timely.
  • Get Out of the Office- I know that I am not doing my best work sitting behind a desk. I need to be out and about meeting the community members that I am serving. I am getting to know business owners on a daily basis with business visits. The more connected I become, the more comfortable community members and business owners will be when they need to reach out for me for resources. I am here to connect the dots, provide resources and facilitate solutions.
  • It’s not all rainbows and Kumbaya by the campfire- There will be a time when community members will not like the work that we are doing. However, this is not a reflection of me or our organization. It is a reflection of their fear of change. Support is here, but those who support change often do not come forward. I know in my heart that what I am doing is right and good for our community, and my board
  • Communicate, Communicate, Communicate- I am constantly telling my board, city council, and members of our community about our organization and our projects. I am also writing article, talking on the radio, and posting to social media.
  • Build Relationships- This one is a BIG deal that is very much taken for granted. I work everyday building relationships with all different kinds of people. There is a lot of time and energy that goes into building relationships and its crucial for our good work.

Working with my community brings me so much joy and energy. I find that my best work is done by asking questions to get us where we need to be. I have grown so much in my position here and so proud of our community for everything we have accomplished together. I invite you to stop in to my office and chat with me anytime about On Hand and the good work that we are doing here.

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