Sunday, April 25, 2010

Long-time community builders continue to work toward growth

Merle Walter has been involved in economic development for 20 years in Arlington. His vision of economic development is promoting community development by creating present and future industry and community, creating jobs and creating stability.
“Nothing’s ever a guarantee,” he said.
The community was able to land Global Industry, an injection molding company. Global Industry is the largest business with almost 100 employees. Now the company is focusing on new ways to move their product and applications.
Arlington is also working to stabilize Main Street. Recently, Kinder Hardware went out of business and the community is rallying to maintain a hardware store.
“The main thing is to keep people in Arlington and create jobs to maintain our schools,” Walter said. The economic development group purchased a vacant building on Main Street and is renting the space to a call center. Link It is in the process of creating up to 10 jobs.
Another way that the community has been looking to expand its business climate is through partnerships. Over a five-year period, the development corporation will provide the Brookings Economic Development Corporation $25,000 to help bring business in to the community.
“There were a lot of concerns about going with a bigger community because they are just going to take our money and not going to do anything,” Walter said. “But it has been just the opposite. I thought it was a good deal. They have been very supportive of us.”
Another economic development tool being used by the city of Arlington and the development corporation is a revolving loan fund to help with business development. Each has put $100,000 into the pot for that purpose.
Location is another tool being used. The community is located close to I-29, as well as the communities of Brookings, Watertown and Madison.
“We maintain the small community aspect, but we still have a lot to offer,” Walter said. “Arlington has always maintained about 1,000 people. I think that is our comfort level.”
Driving south down Highway 81 is Salem, a community that is just off Interstate 90.
Darwin Miiller has been involved with economic development for more than 15 years in Salem. The goal for the Salem Development Corporation is to procure and develop new and existing businesses in the area. “Like the majority of smaller communities, we have limited resources,” Miiller said. “Sometimes development corporations forget about existing businesses that are around. We try to maintain that happy medium for both.”
While the last couple of years have been tough for communities, Miiller said Salem has maintained.
The community’s major manufacturing companies have closed down, but recently a new manufacturing company has submitted a plan to the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and will open in Salem, according to Miiller. The first year 27 jobs are expected and by the end of the third year the projections are 45-50 employees.
Possibly, the biggest draw to Salem is location. The community is three miles from I-90, which runs east and west throughout South Dakota and Highway 81, which runs north and south from the Canadian Border to the Mexican border.
“We are a bedroom community, but do have services,” Miiller said.
Miiller admits that he thought there would be an exodus of people when Salem’s major manufacturing company closed, but changed that mindset quickly because of the nature of the community. “Anyone who lives in a small town wants to stay in that small town,” Miiller said. “They like the rural living.”
Miiller said future development will be a slow, steady process.

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