Grow Spink Celebrates 20 Years of Economic Development
Wednesday, April 14, 2021
Sometimes, all it takes is putting a simple idea into action, and for Turton native Norbert “Norbe” Barrie, action was needed. Norbe had moved away from Spink County, spending much of his working adult life in California and Oregon. but retirement brought him back home, to his beloved South Dakota, and Spink County. Having seen a thing or two of the world, Barrie was discouraged by what he perceived as a lack of economic development in his hometown and the county at large.
“He proposed, on his own, getting people together and said let’s get and fund a city/county economic development director and put together a group, a board of directors,” recalled long-time friend and associate Craig Johnson. “He came up with Grow Spink.”
Johnson became the first director of the newly organized group, funded from both Spink County and the city of Redfield. Their stated mission: to promote, stimulate and expand economic, commercial, industrial and residential growth for Spink County, leading to “taxable evaluation, for taxable sales, and for job growth.” The county lent them an office in the courthouse, while a local company gave them a small grant so they could hook up a phone line and start a checking account. Johnson recalled that Wally Mundstock, owner of the Redfield Press was very instrumental in getting the word out in the newspaper, and saying that board members would be recruited.
Johnson believed that in order to attract business you had to have housing. Throughout Spink County there was a glut of abandoned, old, run-down properties. “At the beginning there were conversations about whether housing was economic development or not. I thought it was,” says Johnson. “South Dakota codified law (SDCL) allowed cities and counties to deed land over to an economic development group for further economic development. We would go in and clean up a property at no cost, and then resell that property and put a house on it, get it back on the tax rolls.” Since they began, Grow Spink has been a part of close to 150 redevelopment projects.
Attracting business was more difficult, says Johnson. “I think that was one of the challenges, that there really aren’t many people willing to come to the middle of South Dakota and start up a business. You have to do it locally, and it has to be value added ag. Grow Spink didn’t have a “war chest” of surplus money, so they relied on picking up economic development grants to fund projects. Grow Spink worked with a number of public non-profits, such as NESDEC (The Northeast South Dakota Economic Corporation, NECOG (The Northeast Council of Governments), and USDA Rural Development. “All were instrumental as we picked up grants here and there to get something working,” recalls Johnson. “We probably picked up $300,000 to 350,000 for rural development.”
In Spink County, ag is king, and the primary driver for business spin-offs, referred to value added ag. Value added ag is nothing more than taking an ag product and making it into another product, says Johnson. “Two local men started a business called Precision Soil Management,” he notes. “That's the thing now in agriculture; precision, not wasting any products. Having your land mapped, all the technology that goes along with that. It's absolutely huge, and the big farmers are all doing this.”
One of Grow Spink’s biggest success stories is the development of the local ethanol plant. Redfield Energy, LLC went online in April, 2007. Today, they process around 20 million bushels of corn, and produce “approximately 230,000 tons of modified wet and dried distillers’ grain, which is sold to the local and west coast markets.” The plant employs around 40 workers and is assessed at $15 million. It’s been a huge success story for Spink County.
Battling for businesses has changed dramatically in the past two decades, driven by technology. If you don't have your area and your information online, forget about it. We do all our research online now. Today, Grow Spink is online. Anyone, anywhere in the country, or world for that matter, can see what Spink County has to offer. Potential investors can see the utility rates, where the land is, what the tax rates are. The old days of stopping, looking at any property, getting the nickel tour, and meeting with the mayor are gone.
Fully connected into the modern world, Grow Spink director Gianna Schieffer is excited to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Grow Spink, and looks forward to taking on the challenges of economic development for the next twenty years, or more? She’s bullish on local investment, knowing that Spink County has a lot to offer.
To learn more about Grow Spink, visit: https://www.growspink.com/