• STURGIS (4.10.2018) — Ten years ago, residents of Sturgis, business owners and city officials gathered at a town-hall meeting to talk about a plan for their community’s future. Sturgis Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) President Pat Kurtenbach remembers that as a watershed moment for Sturgis.

    The Future Sturgis Initiative, funded in part by SEDC, defined a grass-roots movement charged with identifying areas of improvement to enhance Sturgis’ live-ability index. Its recommendations were incorporated into the Sturgis Comprehensive Plan and today form the platform for many of the city’s business- and growth-friendly decisions.

    Speaking at SEDC’s annual board meeting Tuesday, Kurtenbach said many of those in attendance were involved in the Future Sturgis Initiative. “It’s hard to believe that it has only been 10 years and to look at the changes that have happened in that time is incredible,” she said.

    At the time of the town-hall meeting, residents said they wanted more and better amenities for their community. “Those listening session turned into action. That action led to change, and the change led to where we are today. I see us as a pacesetter,” she said.

    Kurtenbach said she recently visited Hot Springs at their economic development annual meeting when a speaker made reference to the Future Sturgis Initiative.

    “They are going through a Future Sturgis at the moment,” she said. “They are trying to identify who they want to be when they grow up. They know about what steps we have taken over the past 10 years.”

    People in the region look to what has happened in Sturgis as an example of what can happen economically when a community does strategic planning and forges partnerships, Kurtenbach said.

    Scott Stern, the commissioner of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, agreed and said Sturgis has been a shining example of a community that controlled its own destiny.

    He also lauded the efforts of Kurtenbach for the community’s economic development success.

    “You guys don’t know what a gem you have,” he said. “She works tirelessly not just for your community, but she has worked very hard to make this state a better place.”

    Stern said it requires very vigorous and strategic activity to succeed in economic development. “Economic development does not happen on its own. It just doesn’t show up someday,” said Stern, the keynote speaker at Tuesday’s meeting.

    At the state level, the GOED office has doubled its community development representation in the past year. “We felt it was very important to be more closely connected with our communities,” Stern said. “If we don’t understand what is going on in a community we can’t help them and vice versa.” And it’s that collaboration that is key to success in economic development in South Dakota, Stern said.

    Reprinted courtesy of Deb Holland, Black Hills Pioneer