Three organizations provide economic boost for workforce housing in rural South Dakota

Published: Jul. 16, 2020 at 12:23 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Across small towns in South Dakota, jobs are being created, business is growing. The challenge now is finding affordable housing for employees.

Imagine finding a job, a cute little town, but you can’t get a mortgage, because there are no other recent home sales as a comparable for your bank. First Bank and Trust President Kevin Tetzlaff has seen it first hand.

“Investing in affordable housing is needed to help build our communities and grow and sustain our local economies,” Tetzlaff said.

This has been the plight of Avera Health and those they recruit for jobs.

“This task is made even harder when the worker is identified, but lack of affordable housing creates a barrier for them coming to our state and our communities,” Avera’s Chief Strategy and Growth Officer Thomas Clarke said.

Three businesses came together to address workforce housing in rural areas and provide a financial boost to make a change, believing quality housing is a solution.

SDN Communications and First Bank and Trust have both committed one million dollars. Avera Health has already committed 1 million dollars and will invest another million dollars in the future. Part of their donation includes 22 acres of land in Mitchell, where plans are underway to build 93 homes next spring.

Tom Boyko is the CEO of East River Electric Power Cooperative. That organization spearheaded the Rural Electric Economic Development (REED) Fund.

“REED a Rural Economic Development fund that the cooperatives of South Dakota, have gotten together and formed back in 1997. It’s there to help economic development throughout the rural South Dakota and western Minnesota,” Boyko said.

The funds allow tiny communities to have one or two homes built, backed by REED funding to get started.

The announcement and check presentation in the foyer of SDN Communications in Sioux Falls was a happy celebration, where eyes could still be seen lighting up while smiles were obscured by masks.

The hopeful mood was reflected in the statement from the CEO of SDN communications, Mark Shlanta.

“Well, I’d like to think it would be a catalyst, you know, it’ll perhaps get some communities, starting to ask questions of the fund. And you know how do we participate,” Shlanta said.

The program will help to finance the builders so that they’ll be able to keep on building, making those comparables, allowing for mortgages to take place.

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