The sixth phase of Forward Sioux Falls has passed the halfway point of its five-year run, so community business leaders have started preparing for the next phase of the highly successful economic development program.
The current phase of FSF is scheduled to last until March 31, 2016.
“We’re inside our last two years,” says Mark Shlanta, who chairs the FSF Joint Venture Management Committee. “We have started planning for our next Forward Sioux Falls.”
Shlanta is also the chief executive officer of SDN Communications. He’s been active in the leadership of community-development organizations for more than a decade.
FSF is a joint venture of the Sioux Falls Development Foundation and the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce. The first phase of FSF was launched in 1987 to improve Sioux Falls through means such as job development.
Program objectives and budgetary plans are updated every few years to keep FSF in line with community needs and realities.
“The priority of all the campaigns has been to grow the economy,” Shlanta says.
FSF has helped create jobs and expand the community’s economic base by, for example, helping launch the South Dakota Technology Business Center, a business incubator in northwest Sioux Falls.
Workforce development is likely to remain among the priorities of the next FSF program, which tentatively is scheduled to run from 2016 to 2021.
“We have to figure out how to get more people – competent workforce – to come to work and live in the Sioux Falls MSA,” Shlanta says.
The Sioux Falls Metropolitan Statistical Area, or MSA, is comprised of Minnehaha, Lincoln, McCook and Turner counties.
Unemployment in the four-country Sioux Falls area was 3.3 percent in April, according to the South Dakota Department of Labor. That was down from 3.8 percent in March.
A lack of skilled workers for new and growing businesses threatens to slow Sioux Falls’ impressive rate of growth. Other growing cities face a similar problem.
Through the years, FSF has attacked workforce challenges through means such as promoting local opportunities at the national level and creating an agency to help develop affordable housing for workers.
The current phase of FSF has helped create more than 7,000 new jobs in the Sioux Falls area, putting the program goal of 10,000 within reach.
The current phase had a fundraising goal of $11.2 million but raised $12 million for its efforts. The budget and other details for the next phase of FSF have not been determined.
Day-to-day administrators of FSF include Evan Nolte, who is the president and CEO of the Chamber, and Slater Barr, the president of the Development Foundation.
”Even a cursory look at the outside metrics shows, without a doubt, the economy here is one of the strongest in the country,” Barr says.
He points out that in 2013, the Policom Corp. ranked the economy of the Sioux Falls area as the ninth strongest in the United States. The Top 10 ranking was especially significant because it was based on long-term economic factors, not just a snapshot of the economy, Barr says.
Barr says a ranking by the U.S. Conference of Mayors also is worth special note. The organization has identified Sioux Falls as the fourth-fastest growing economy in the United States.
“Those are indicators that I point to as measurements of the strength of the economy,” Barr says. “I do think they are a direct result of this culture of collaboration that has been created, at least partly, by Forward Sioux Falls.”
The Development Foundation and Chamber of Commerce, the creators of FFS, are just two of many civic organizations in which SDN employees are involved.
Shlanta encourages employees to be active in organizations that benefit the community, the company and its customers.
“When employees are active, it gives the community a growing customer base, just like Forward Sioux Falls,” he says.
Visit SDN's Community Service page to see more of the organizations employees support.