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elsie m. meeks

USDA Rural Development Participates in Value Added Day at South Dakota State Fair

The recently concluded South Dakota State Fair is ‘Still the One!’  The Value Added Agriculture Development Center (VAADC) hosted Value Added Ag Day at the 2012 South Dakota State Fair on August 30th.  USDA Rural Development was represented at the tent and State Director Elsie Meeks was on a panel discussion titled Growing Rural South Dakota. The discussion was focused on the respective businesses and their development and expansion of agribusiness ventures that have brought value to our agricultural producers and local-state economies.  Meeks spoke on the long term partnership and support our agency has provided to the Center, provided examples of business and cooperative programs offered through USDA Rural Development, as well as USDA celebrating its 150th anniversary.  Participants were able to view the timeline posters displayed inside the tent.

The Value Added Agriculture Development Center and its member contingency of rural-based commodity groups, trade organizations and cooperatives provide education and technical assistance to individuals, groups and communities.

Diversity within a South Dakota Rural Community

USDA Rural Development in South Dakota is interested in learning about and working with other cultures.  To enhance employee understanding, Mark Heuston, Director of Human Resources with Dakota Provisions, a turkey processing firm, was invited to USDA offices recently to make a presentation on the topic of diversity.

Dakota Provisions talent and expertise on working with diverse groups from several cultures is becoming well known throughout the South Dakota business world.  Most notable, is their success in recruiting Myanmar (Burmese) immigrants, “The Karen” to work in various positions throughout the processing plant located in Huron, SD.

The Karens are members of indigenous minority ethnic groups which reside primarily in southern and southeastern Myanmar. Some members have come to the United States recently.   Mr. Heuston educated staff on the Karen culture, the intricate process involved with them leaving Myanmar, and the transition to a life of personal enrichment in the United States - work, home, family, church, and community.

Shovels of Gold Symbolic of New Fire Protection for the Residents of a South Dakota Reservation

While the shovels may have all been painted gold, they weren’t just bought off the shelf; some were used, donated, came in different sizes, and had different uses.  It was a metaphor for the day as community members from the small community of Parmelee, South Dakota, located on the Rosebud Indian Reservation, gathered.  A project started over four years ago, involving  partnerships with ten different organizations/agencies to bring to fruition, broke ground recently on the long awaited, sought after fire hall.

South Dakota Communications Cooperative Recognized at White House “Champions of Change” Event

Headquartered in the community of Highmore in the heart of South Dakota, Venture Communications Cooperative is committed to providing friendly, first-rate service.  Commitment to their members and customers has distinguished them as one of several businesses from across the country that were invited to Washington, D.C., today to share their ideas directly with the Obama Administration on how to strengthen rural communities and promote economic growth.  It’s called “Champions of Change”.

Venture Communications Cooperative was selected because of the broadband infrastructure and service expansion improvements they’ve made.  Venture Communications can streamline business communications from local and long distance phone services to Internet access.

South Dakota Regionalism Road Trip

It could be that the holiday season is approaching or winter weather in South Dakota, but three different regional meetings were held this last week highlighting differently funded projects.  The common theme to these projects is that South Dakota organizations and agencies have heard the call towards regional work to support rural economic development.

If you were in Bismarck, ND, on December 12th you could have attended the Upper Missouri Tribal Environmental Risk Mitigation (UM TERM) project kick off meeting.  This project was recently awarded $1.7 million as part of Obama Administration’s “Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge.”  This multi-agency collaboration supports the advancement of 20 high-growth, regional industry clusters in the upper Missouri River region of South Dakota, North Dakota and Montana.  Funding was provided by the agencies; US Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, Economic Development Administration and Small Business Administration.  USDA Rural Development staff from both South Dakota and North Dakota was at the table to offer their assistance.

Oglala Sioux Tribe Celebrates Homeownership Month

John Yellow Bird Steele, President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe (OST) signed a proclamation declaring June 2011 National Homeownership Month.  The signing event took place in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, earlier this month with Partnership for Housing and USDA Rural Development on site for the ceremony.

“USDA Rural Development is actively engaged with assisting the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in increasing homeownership opportunities in coordination with our public, private, and non-profit partners,” said Rural Development State Director Elsie M. Meeks.  “Homeownership often leads to economic improvements, a better sense of pride in yourself and of the community.”

USDA Helps Renovate a South Dakota Rural Housing Complex to Improve the Quality of Rural Life

Parkview Apartments, Inc. in Arlington, South Dakota, is a nonprofit organization that consists of nine buildings. The first building on this project was built in 1964 and the other buildings were later added in the 1970s.  The project had seen an increase in vacancy rates prior to the renovation.  Today, with USDA funded upgrades, they hope to increase the occupancy rate.

USDA Rural Development has partnered with South Dakota Housing Development Authority to fund rehab including reducing the number of units from 42 to 35, resulting in 14-one bedroom, 20-two bedroom, and one-three bedroom to better serve the needs of families in the area, along with roofing, siding, plumbing, electrical, flooring, windows, appliances, and handicap accessibility.

Recovery Act Funds Help a South Dakota Region Improve Water Service

Kingbrook Rural Water System, Inc. in Arlington, South Dakota, (KBRW) is spread over a service area of nearly 3,000 square miles, larger than some states.  The distances involved create opportunity for failures of equipment or facilities due to natural or man-made causes. Any calamity can cause ripple effects on the Kingbrook system that would adversely affect water service for hours, days, or weeks.

KBRW operates an eleven-county water system which includes three water treatment plants, distribution pipeline, and pumping stations to distribute water to over 4,000 customers.  The operation requires significant capital investment as individual system components require replacement.

Thanks to USDA, Vision Becomes Reality for Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate

In the mid-1970’s, the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate (Sioux Tribe) relocated from a small tribal office building in Sisseton, SD, to establish a new tribal government at the Old Agency Dakota community in Agency Village, SD.  Since then, the tribe has grown immensely in population and in services provided to tribal members, who presently have to travel long distances in order to get needed services from tribal programs at various locations throughout northeastern South Dakota.  Today, the vision of providing needed services to its members in one central location is soon to become a reality, thus fulfilling the dream of decades ago with the move to Agency Village.