To me, the phrase 'economic development' is more than a buzzword – and that was reinforced during an all-too-brief trip to western South Dakota. It's easy to get caught up in the policymaking and program implementation in Washington, D.C., and I find great value in getting to the field so I can see exactly how these programs are helping our local stakeholders and partners, small business lenders, and entrepreneurs make investments in the local economy.
I started out the day in Sturgis, where we met up with Legends Suspensions owner Jesse Jurrens. With the backing of two Business & Industry Guaranteed Loans, Jesse has shaped and changed the sport and lifestyle of motorcyclists globally. With his lean and efficient business model, he's become a global force in motorcycle suspensions. We also visited Landsport, another Sturgis-based business that specializes in manufacturing and marketing aluminum loading ramps, drop deck ramps, service ramps, and other custom applications. Landsport used a Business & Industry guaranteed loan to expand its production and work staff. After meeting with the staff at both facilities, I walked away knowing these operations have a long-term vision for success and growth. USDA and our lending partners helped give them the freedom to execute that vision.
In the mid-afternoon, we headed from Sturgis to Deadwood, where I spoke at the South Dakota Indian Business Alliance Conference (SDIBA). The theme was Expanding Economies in the New Native America. SDIBA strives to enhance Indian Business development by leveraging partnerships and resources of diverse institutions and organizations. I was pleased to amplify USDA’s message in support of expanding business opportunities, financial literacy and access to capital across rural America, including Native American communities. Collaboration, cooperation, and creativity are all drivers in making resources available to rural areas.
We also stopped by West River Electric Association, Inc. and presented them with a Rural Economic Development loan. This is a program that lets our partner electric and telecommunications cooperatives borrow funds to provide investment in the communities they serve. In this instance, the Wall School District will use the funds to help finance a new athletic complex for their students.
On the return flight to DC, I took a moment to reflect on this whirlwind day. Really, what it comes down to is, our partners, lenders, and borrowers in rural America are genuinely making a difference in the small business economy of their communities.
USDA Rural Development continues to be a strong partner in making this happen in South Dakota – and across the nation.
South Dakota is part of USDA’s StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity which coordinates USDA assistance in the Nation’s most economically challenged rural areas. Through StrikeForce, USDA works with community partners to feed kids, assist farmers, secure safe homes, conserve natural resources and create jobs. Currently, USDA StrikeForce teams are collaborating with more than 500 community partners to address chronic rural poverty in over 800 counties in 21 states and Puerto Rico.